Interview with Rik Temmink
MP2K Magazine recently conducted an in-depth interview with Rik Temmink. Rik managed the MapPoint marketing team from early 2001 until January of this year, and now manages the MapPoint business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
MP2Kmag: A lot has changed since we first made contact around the time MapPoint 2002 shipped in April 2001. What are the most memorable developments
from your perspective?
RT: You’re right; the world of MapPoint looks quite different now compared to two years ago. First of all, the release of MapPoint 2002 with its extensive programming interfaces and more powerful functionality elevated the product to a new level. The MapPoint 2002 desktop application business has grown and is now several times larger than it was in 2001 and there’s no sign of a slow-down. At the same time, we successfully launched the MapPoint Web Service, created some early momentum and then acquired Vicinity with its blue chip customer base to boost that momentum. Even the consumer mapping business (Streets & Trips in North America and AutoRoute in Europe) is growing again. Those things together are probably the top of mind achievements. But there’s even more exciting work in the pipeline, for instance the Microsoft Location Server that’s currently in development.
MP2Kmag: To what extent is Microsoft changing the GIS industry? Insiders of the spatial technology seem divided on this topic – some dismiss MapPoint as not affecting the GIS world while others see it changing the industry in a fundamental way.
RT: As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. We have no intention of competing with the traditional GIS vendors in their core market, but the existence of more affordable and standard mapping technology will put pressure on the traditional technology and data vendors and their channels. For instance, customers are smart enough to use MapPoint as a negotiating tool – if you can buy a quality mapping tool with Navtech data for all of North America or Europe for under 300 dollars, it’s pretty hard for another vendor to explain why their version of the same costs tens of thousands of dollars. But if we succeed, our biggest achievement will be to bring geographic information to customers and solutions that currently don’t use location technology. The MapPoint Web Service is our main tool for achieving this. Because it is a hosted Web service, it doesn’t require users to install any content or technology locally – they just make calls to a remote Web service. XML Web services are a perfect way to deliver “ingredient” functionality, much more so than desktop or server technology.
MP2Kmag: Have you considered long-term replacing or merging the MapPoint desktop product with MapPoint web services?
RT: A rich client application and a hosted XML Web service are definitely complementary. MapPoint 2002 is an “out-of-the-box” desktop application – it doesn’t require any programming unlike the MapPoint Web Service which doesn’t have an application a user can install and use. The ideal would be to have the two technologies working together in unison, with a new-generation desktop client connecting to the Web Service for its map content.
MP2Kmag: Is that client & web service combined offering on the drawing board?
RT: It’s definitely something that is being discussed internally, but it’s a little too early to say whether, when or how it will materialize.
MP2Kmag: Talking about the future of the MapPoint 2002 product, can you shed any light on MapPoint 2004? A recent discussion in the forum suggested it is primarily just a refresh of the data.
RT: I can confirm that there will be an upgrade in the next few months, but you’ll have to wait for the official announcement for dates and other specifics. All I’ll say is that the 2004 release is not about adding end-user focused functionality – the number 1 goal was to give our customers new maps and other content with improved stability and performance. The new products will be called MapPoint 2004 North American Maps and MapPoint 2004 European Maps. We will also release 2004 versions of Streets & Trips (in North America) and AutoRoute (in Europe).
MP2Kmag: Will the 2004 versions address some of the points of interest issues such as missing post offices and other categories that have been discussed at length in the newsgroups?
RT: We monitor the discussions on the newsgroups on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes it’s frustrating seeing users jump to the wrong conclusions but on the whole it’s good to hear what people are thinking. The points of interest situation is a tough one. We license data from vendors, and occasionally we change vendors because we feel they provide better data. In some cases the main decision driver is value for money. Data royalties have gone up a lot the last few years, so to keep the products affordable, especially Streets & Trips which sells for $24.95 before a $10 rebate in some places, we have to watch our cost of goods very carefully. Most users don’t realize that – and we don’t really expect them too. What’s most frustrating about the post offices discussion is that this is one of very few categories that we lost. Nobody is commenting on the fact that the net increase of points between the 2002 and 2003 version was several hundred thousand entities – close to 25%! How do you make that trade-off - lose post offices and gain in lots of other areas?
Some other issues discussed in the newsgroup, like the missing ski resorts in Europe and lack of nightclubs in New Orleans, were simply mistakes on our part. We’re human too!
MP2Kmag: What about the other vendor change between 2002 and 2003 – the removal of AND mapping data in the European versions, which meant roads in Ireland, Greece and Eastern Europe disappeared?
RT: That was a tough decision too, but one that I still think was right. The AND data we used was outdated and the level of detail wasn’t consistent with the other data we use. The price we paid for it was disproportional to its value to AutoRoute and MapPoint Europe. We tried hard to negotiate an appropriate license fee but in the end, we were unsuccessful.
MP2Kmag: On a higher level, what have been the major challenges for MapPoint over the last couple of years?
RT: Building demand for a new product is something you don’t do overnight. I joined the MapPoint team a few months before the launch of MapPoint 2002, so fortunately we had a really significant new release to rally around. But still, we had little momentum at that point and getting attention from partners and customers wasn’t easy. The GIS-savvy people thought MapPoint was a toy, and the broader market wasn’t really interested in mapping. Educating users and evangelizing the technology was the order of the day, and in many ways it still is. Having MP2K Magazine as a source of information definitely helped, as did the MapPoint for Dummies book. Fortunately, things get easier with each new satisfied user. Word of mouth makes a huge difference, and once you get to a critical mass of users, the momentum takes over.
MP2Kmag: Surely the widespread adoption of MapPoint by independent software vendors has been a big help in driving up demand?
RT: Absolutely, that’s been one of the major success factors. MapPoint 2002 provides great functionality out of the box for general purpose “business mapping and data visualization”, but there’s a much larger market opportunity in specific vertical or horizontal markets such as crime analysis, real estate, and fleet tracking. Software vendors such as Media Marketing, Mapping Analytics, Mapping Solutions, CPAL, Tetrad and SpatialPoint and have done a great job extending MapPoint and taking it into markets which MapPoint on its own couldn’t have reached.
MP2Kmag: What about competitive pressure – has that been an issue?
RT: Competition is always a factor, but I wouldn’t say it has been a significant issue for us in any of the market sectors we play in. There is little direct competition for MapPoint 2002. Indirect competitors like MapInfo Professional offer a very different feature set at a very different price point. In the XML Web services field, there are plenty of direct competitors, from players that have been in this field for a while such as MapQuest to new entrants like ESRI. But in both cases, the opportunity is in its infancy and our real focus is on growing the market rather than taking market share from competitors.
The only area where competition is a real factor is our consumer mapping business. This market has been pretty flat the last few years, so growth for Streets & Trips and AutoRoute comes mostly at the expense of Rand McNally and Delorme. Competition in this market segment isn’t very inspiring either – it’s basically “stack ‘m high and sell ‘m cheap”.
MP2Kmag: You also had your share of customer confusion and rumors to deal with. I’m referring to the Navtech licensing situation regarding “Fleet applications” of last year.
RT: You’re right, there has been lots of talk about licensing over the last 12 months. It’s clearly linked to MapPoint’s success, which is putting pressure on existing distribution channels and their typically rich margins. We didn’t intend to create channel conflicts for our data vendors or their value added partners, but to some extent it was unavoidable. In the traditional GIS world, the same technology or data is priced differently depending on what you use it for. In the mainstream software market, that is not the case. You don’t pay more for Microsoft Word if you use it to create an important legal contract and less if you use it to write a letter to your parents, but in GIS land you pay one rate for data for fleet applications or call center solutions, and a different rate for a business analysis solution, even if the software used is exactly the same. Because we sell thousands and thousands of MapPoint licenses, and don’t know (or even want to know) what end users are doing with the product, it’s impossible for us to charge them different prices depending on their use of the product. We worked through the concerns of our data vendors and their traditional channel partners and ended up defining types of restricted applications for which special rules apply. We’ll do our best to educate users about these changes, but our point of view is that longer term, the market will demand more standard licensing. Non-standard restrictions are a barrier to growth – no doubt about it. The GIS world still wants to play the “high volume” game, but without accepting the “low price” part of the equation. Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, and I think everyone is beginning to realize that now. We’re in no way advocating giving stuff away for free, but simplicity of pricing and affordability are crucial in growing the market.
MP2Kmag: Shifting gears, let’s talk about the MapPoint Web Service and the acquisition of Vicinity Corporation. How has the acquisition worked out so far?
RT: We’re very happy with our progress with the MapPoint Web Service and the integration of the Vicinity team. Vicinity gave us an experienced team of development, professional services and sales people plus a great list of customers to add to our growing list of MapPoint users. Our goal of accelerating our technical roadmap for our Web Service technology by integrating the Vicinity development team is on track. The former Vicinity development team is now fully focused on our next MapPoint release. On the business side, Vicinity customers including Pier 1 and Starbucks have successfully migrated to the MapPoint Web Service, and many other migrations are in process.
MP2Kmag: Does the MapPoint Business Unit see any further acquisitions on the horizon?
RT: That’s not a question I can answer – other than by saying we’ll do whatever is right to meet our aggressive growth goals.
MP2Kmag: Tell us a little more about the MapPoint opportunity in Europe. Will Microsoft put more focus on that region?
RT: Some of roots of our MapPoint technology are in Europe. Microsoft acquired a British company called Nextbase and its AutoRoute product line back in the mid-1990s and relocated its key technical staff to Redmond. AutoRoute, the European sister product of Streets & Trips, is still a significant product for our business unit. MapPoint 2002, the MapPoint Web Service and Vicinity also have good footholds in the European market, so we’re definitely not starting from scratch in the region. Our products and services are definitely very competitive in the European market – good functionality and data, standard technology at an affordable price.
Until the acquisition of Vicinity, we didn’t have any dedicated staff for our business unit, but we now have a small team of business development and pre-sales specialists. We’ll use that team to accelerate our growth by doing more evangelism and customer-facing activities, working hand-in-hand with the local Microsoft sales teams. Our early experience with this model is very encouraging, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing lots of new business in Europe.
MP2Kmag: Rik, Africa and the Middle East are among the areas in which you manage the MapPoint business. Do you plan any geography products with detailed data for these areas or how does that fit in?
RT: Expanding into these regions is definitely on our road map. Our main map data vendor (Navtech) has map data for South Africa and parts of the Middle East. We haven’t yet taken that data and built it into our products, but we most likely will in the not too distant future. But for now, the focus is definitely on building out our European business. There is an extraordinary amount of opportunity in countries like the UK and Germany that we don’t fully capitalize on.
MP2Kmag: What are your predictions for the next 12 to 18 months with regards to the MapPoint business?
RT: We’re looking forward to continued rapid growth of our MapPoint Web Service business, partly through migrating the Vicinity customer base and partly through new business development. The MapPoint 2004 launch should continue to sustain the growth in our desktop application business. So from a short to medium term point of view, the business prospects look excellent. However, it’s the longer term prospects that we are most excited about. There’s lots more growth ahead of us in the United States but Europe is really untapped potential and we haven’t even entered regions such as Asia, Australia and New Zealand or Latin America. Improvements in mobile device and location technology (standalone GPS, wireless network positioning and hybrids such as A-GPS) will open up new markets for spatial technology, and it will be fun exploiting those opportunities. And, we expect the Longhorn release of Windows to reinvigorate the software market, enabling new usage scenarios and making existing ones more usable and productive. There’s a real buzz in our group about the future.
MP2Kmag: Thanks Rik, and we look forward to keep in touch with you in the future.