Welcome to GISWeekly! This week Microsoft MapPoint Web Service 3.5 was released for developers. With the Web Service, the customer doesn't have to manage data locally. It's managed for them in the Web Service using the interactive visual tools. See what it's about in this week's Industry News.
In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau released some mouthwatering statistics about Valentine's Day, and the New Products section features a review of Thales' Navigation's MobileMapper GPS/GIS unit. GISWeekly will, from time to time, review products of interest to our readers. Next week look for details on an announcement made by DigitalGlobe and Keyhole of an a agreement to provide DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite imagery and Keyhole's Internet-based 3D earth visualization solutions to customers. Following that will be a review of Keyhole, a decision support tool for business people that takes advantage of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery.
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Microsoft MapPoint Web Service 3.5 Debuts
By Susan Smith
This week Microsoft MapPoint Web Service 3.5 was released for developers. I spoke with Steve Lombardi, Technical Evangelist for the Microsoft MapPoint Business Unit about the new release.
Here's an overview of what the Web Service features:
*No user interface constraints
*Developers can work on a lot of different platforms such as all Windows platforms, LINUX, and programming languages from Visual Basic to JAVA.
*The Web Service comes with all the cartographic, point of interest data built right in. Developers can start in right away by using simple APIs to do maps and reverse geocoding
Interestingly, we are told almost simultaneously what the product is not as well as what it is.
The most important new enhancements of MapPoint Web Service version 3.5 are:
1) Updated map data for Europe and North America with new countries added
2) New API functionality which includes the capability to search for points of interest along a route, allowing for powerful proximity searches. This is referred to as “Find along route functionality” - business travelers using an application built by an enterprise, can build a trip covering the territory, say, from Houston to Dallas and may want to do a “find along that route” within five miles of that route, looking for wi-fi hot spots, for example. “This is a feature that was in the Vicinity platform that we migrated into MapPoint Web Service,” explained Lombardi. “Not only is it a great feature for mobility but also is great for the Vicinity customers who used it on the Vicinity platform and who want to now migrate over to the MapPoint platform.”
3) The Customer Service site has been improved to handle customer data better. “At the Customer Service site, our developers can not only do things like manage their accounts, or transactions, they can do all kinds of sophisticated reporting to find out what are their most popular query locations and things like that,” according to Lombardi, adding: “But what's really cool is the addition of data management features. In the past an organization could do some basic data management. We had a batch geocoder here that was free for their use. They could upload an Excel spreadsheet of addresses or other attribute information for stores who have automatically batch geocoded and made available for use in their private accounts. Now we have full interactive data editing that includes the spatial data as well as other attribute data, so they can upload their data, their points of interest into the service and then visually manage and give them away to store managers who may have local knowledge of where a store is really located or an automated geocoder may put it at the end of the block. It's really a shopping mall down at the other corner. Because it's a huge block and there's a mall there - that's where the store manager out in the field can use this tool and visually move the point around. Finally there is the ability to automatically upload their data to the service.”
All this was a manual drag-and-drop operation in the past, Lombardi said, a capability which is still available, yet now the customer can choose to do it interactively on the Customer Service site. A lot of organizations wanted to automate the upload of their data into the MapPoint Web Service which this new API allows them to do. For example, someone managing their data with an Oracle database, or a SQL server database wants to use it with MapPoint Web Service can now do a nightly job run that exports the data and imports it silently up into the MapPoint Web Service and it's immediately ready for use.
4) Enhanced proximity searching and advanced filter expressions allow users to query points of interest or place data, as demonstrated in 2).
5) Enhanced support for rendering maps on mobile devices is included. New map styles for Smartphones and Pocket PCs allow users to easily view maps on mobile devices and also are available in high resolution for printing purposes.
The MapPoint Web Service should not be confused with MSN Maps & Directions; “it's a lot more than just a viewer locator platform,” concluded Lombardi. The product is optimized to be used with MapPoint Location Server, a product that is still under development. “We're really pushing into enterprise applications. Our dealer locator market is certainly strong and it will continue to be that way, but we're definitely going to push for enterprise applications for both intranets, individual desktops as well as mobility applications or the enterprise.”
Also, it should not be confused with Microsoft MapPoint 2004 which is a business mapping product. MapPoint 2004 is a mapping tool for the marketer who wants to be able to drag and drop a set of market results for mass mailing and see how they did region by region.
Pricing really hasn't changed: still platform access starts at $8,000 per year. For this amount an organization gets ½ million transactions on the Web Service. For higher volume applications where they need more than ½ million they can purchase additional transactions in buckets of 100,000 and that starts at about a penny/per transaction and they scale down to about a ½ penny transaction, for higher volume. MapPoint Location Server will be a component of MapPoint Web Service and therefore there will be no extra charge for it.
With the Web Service, the customer doesn't have to manage data locally. It's managed for them in the Web Service using the interactive visual tools. “Someone without GIS experience can geocode a large dataset, get it set up in a web application or mobile application,” Lombardi pointed out. “It's really easy for someone using the same API and dataset they've uploaded to perform the same functionality or more consumer focused functionality on a pocket PC or perhaps a Smartphone. This is what a business user might use when they're mobile to locate hotspots or they may want to take out their phone and do a quick search based on their current location for a hotspot so they can drive there and sync their mail over broadband as opposed to the narrow band of their phone.”
Lombardi also illustrated that MapPoint Web Service is on its own merit, a developer tool designed for developers to build very user friendly applications for end users and consumers. The MapPoint Web Service enables developers to integrate location-based services, such as maps, driving directions and proximity searches, into their applications and business processes.