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MP2K Asks Microsoft
5/14/02: Directions Magazine published an exclusive interview with Michael Graff,
General Manager of Microsoft's MapPoint Group. Read the full transcript on
6/20/01 MP2K: Does MapPoint 2002 compete "head
on" with traditional GIS products, for instance those by ESRI and MapInfo?
The fact that you have confirmed that there will be converters for ESRI and
MapInfo files points in that direction.
6/20/01 Microsoft: Microsoft has no intention
of replacing any GIS vendors. Both ESRI and
MapInfo are partners that have worked with Microsoft on a variety of
projects for many years. We see MapPoint as a complementary technology,
aimed at a broader business audience. Since we launched the first
version of MapPoint nearly 2 years ago, we have learned that our vision
of mapping technology being used widely in organizations requires many
different areas of functionality. From the start, we designed MapPoint
to be very "complete" - high-quality maps, valuable demographic data and
great compatibility with other standard software products, all in one
easy-to-use product. Based on customer feedback, we extended the
programmability of MapPoint 2002, so in-house or 3rd party developers
can customize and extend the product for specific purposes. And very
recently, we decided to offer some "developer samples" demonstrating the
power of MapPoint's object model, and how it can be used to bring data
from the main GIS products into MapPoint. We believe the enhancements in
MapPoint 2002 make the product a great complement to GIS products,
allowing GIS professionals to bring their skills, insight and analysis
to a much larger audience. We understand that there will be cases where
MapPoint competes with GIS products, but in the majority of situations,
MapPoint is used in areas that traditional GIS technologies don't touch.
6/19/01 MP2K: It has been reported that you are planning to release a free mif/mid
and .shp importer add-in for MapPoint complete with source code. Do you have plans to work on a MapInfo .tab
importer or will you leave that to third parties? How about other formats?
6/19/01 Microsoft: You should look at these file
import add-ins as
developer samples rather than
"real functionality". Their main purpose is to demonstrate the power of our
object model. We are doing converters for the binary SHP ESRI file and the
MapInfo text format. We will publish full source code, so everyone will be
able to see how they work. We hope this will help 3rd parties in writing
other converters. We have no plans to do any further converters.
6/19/01 MP2K: What other Microsoft add-ins
might we expect in the future?
6/19/01 Microsoft: We have about 4 other developer samples in the final stages
of development. We have no current plans to do any more (but that could change). However, as noted above,
these are developer samples, not “new functionality for MapPoint”.
6/19/01 MP2K: Do you have plans for a MapPoint
web server or a licensing strategy that would allow people to set one up?
6/19/01 Microsoft: MapPoint is a desktop product, and the licensing
arrangements we have with our data vendors do not allow us to offer a server version of MapPoint. However,
we are actively working on an online mapping platform – the next generation of our Expedia Maps
6/19/01 MP2K: Do you plan a European version of MapPoint 2002? Will that
include any additional countries and when do you expect to release that?
6/19/01 Microsoft: The European version of MapPoint 2002 is already out. It
includes street-level data for Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland,
Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
12/2/98 MP2K: Earlier announcements suggested that Microsoft's channel partners might adapt
and extend MapPoint. Will an SDK be available for integrating additional
data or additional functionality into MapPoint 2002? Can you speak about the
availability of tools and/or programs for such developers?
12/2/98 Microsoft: While we don't have any plans for a SDK, developers will find our basic
object model documented in MapPoint's Help file. Microsoft has a number of
programs for third-party developers including the Microsoft Developer
Network (MSDN). Over time, you will see MapPoint content make it's way into MSDN, although we don't have any specifics as yet. I think the biggest opportunity
in the near term is for vertical solution providers to provide industry-specific datasets to MapPoint customers.
12/2/98 MP2K: There is much interest among members of the mapping "tools" community in developing accessories and add-ins for MapPoint. For instance, add-ins might be developed which make .TAB
(MapInfo format) or .SHP (ESRI's shape format) files accessible to MapPoint
users. Is Microsoft amenable to these sorts of developments?
12/2/98 Microsoft: We are certainly interested in having third-party developers extend
MapPoint. Import and display of custom boundaries or other GIS data from .shp or
.tab files is not something we support in MapPoint version 1. Given our architecture, I'd be
very surprised if a third-party developer could make this happen via an add-in. That said, the use of GIS data formats in MapPoint is a feature we will evaluate for future versions based on customer feedback.
12/2/98 MP2K: Are you aware of any plans to embed MapPoint inside reporting and marketing systems (such as Crystal Reports)? Is this something that would make sense to you?
12/2/98 Microsoft: MapPoint installs itself as an OLE document object which means it can live
in any OLE container application such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. I am not aware of any specific plans to embed MapPoint functionality into reporting and marketing systems but I can see how it would be useful to do so.
11/20/98 MP2K: To what degree will MapPoint be customizable?
11/20/98 Microsoft: MapPoint 2000 exposes a basic object model to enable OLE Automation for
things like creating new maps, finding places and addresses, printing,
panning, and zooming. Developers will be able drive MapPoint from COM
aware development environments such as VBA, VB, or VC++. There are not any
redistributable ActiveX components so any automation requires MapPoint
to be installed on the target machine.
11/20/98 MP2K: Will there be any way to import data from other formats into MapPoint?
11/20/98 Microsoft: MapPoint 2002 will allow users to import or link data from a wide
variety of tabular data sources including Access, Excel, Outlook Contacts,
delimited text, or OLE DB data sources. Upon import, we look within user data to
find a geographic reference that we know about, including street addresses,
census tracts, zip codes, MSA's, counties, cities, states, countries, or latitude/longitude pairs. Using that reference, we are able to put customer information on the map.
As for other map data, we think the majority of MapPoint customers will
have had little or no experience using other GIS applications and therefore
we did not invest in the import of other map data formats. However, based on
customer feedback, this is something we would consider for future versions.
11/13/98 MP2K: The first version of MapPoint 2000 is not being distributed
internationally and international data is on the country level. What are your plans for the geocoding and
the demographic data packages for Canada and Mexico?
11/13/98 Microsoft: While the first version of MapPoint is targeted at
customers in the United States, we do have plans to take the product to other countries as available data
warrants. A United Kingdom version will likely be the first international MapPoint we do with other
European countries to follow. With regard to street level maps and demographic data in Canada and Mexico,
we continue to work with our data suppliers and hope to extend the U.S. product to include all of North
America in future versions.
11/13/98 MP2K: Will MapPoint 2000 be available on Macintosh format?
11/13/98 Microsoft: No. The opportunity to have MapPoint available on the
Macintosh platform is one we monitor periodically but do not have any plans at this time.
11/13/98 MP2K: Where is MapPoint in the beta process?
11/13/98 Microsoft: We released our second beta version to over 1,000 test
sites in early November and are on target to have the product available in the second quarter of 1999.
11/13/98 MP2K: Have any computer makers contacted Microsoft about making
MapPoint 2000 a software bundle option?
11/13/98 Microsoft: Yes, several PC makers have expressed interest in an
OEM version of MapPoint and we will make a bundled version available to them.
11/13/98 MP2K: Do you plan to target any specific consumer segments such
as education, small business associations, etc?
11/13/98 Microsoft: Microsoft MapPoint is a product with broad appeal
whether the user is an independent real-estate agent or a business analyst at a Fortune 500 company.
Our intent is to ship a business productivity tool that can be used in a wide range of organizations
provided there is some location aspect to the business. That said, I think there exists great opportunity
for Microsoft’s channel partners to adapt and extend MapPoint in specific vertical markets such as
education, real-estate, healthcare, insurance, and government agencies.
11/13/98 MP2K: Census 2000 will make most existing demographic data obsolete.
Will there be regular online, subscription-based updates for geographic/demographic data as you have for
11/13/98 Microsoft: We don’t have any plans for subscription based updates
to either the map or the demographic data. Claritas is providing a website and toll free number for
MapPoint customers who want more specific data relevant to their particular industry. The maps themselves
are based on the latest version of GDT’s DynaMap 2000 product and will be updated with each new version