REDMOND, Wash., April 23, 2001 — Microsoft today announced the release to manufacturing of MapPoint 2002, a new version of the business mapping application that combines powerful mapping and analysis tools with the simplicity of Microsoft Office. MapPoint enables users to visually analyze and communicate business information using maps. In a conversation with PressPass, Michael Graff , general manager for MapPoint, discusses how MapPoint 2002 helps businesses visualize data using geographic information.
PressPass: How can businesses make use of geographic information using MapPoint 2002?
Graff: Much of the information stored in company databases today has some sort of geographic element to it, whether that information is related to an address, a state or a ZIP code. Unfortunately, this information is typically only viewed through a spreadsheet, a table or a graph. Rarely is this information analyzed in its most logical format — on a map. With MapPoint, businesses have the ability to visualize their information in a new way and get a new perspective on their performance, their competition and their customers. By understanding the location component of common business data, such as sales or customer lists, they can make more informed decisions. This viewpoint also helps to identify trends or business performance issues that they may have otherwise overlooked.
PressPass: What sort of geographical data could businesses use to be more successful?
Graff: Some excellent examples of geographical data that are useful to any business include sales data, competitor locations, customer lists and service records. Using MapPoint, a business can identify whether geographic or demographic variables may be affecting sales of a particular product. They can examine whether their business could become more efficient by reassigning sales or delivery territories. They can investigate whether the location of competitors could be influencing the sales performance of a particular location. Or they can analyze different areas to determine whether they appear to be good prospects for expanding the business.
MapPoint can also be extremely valuable in day-to-day business operations. For example, a business manager may decide that she wants to identify all customers within a 15-minute drive of her facility, or perhaps within a short drive of a hotel where she is planning to hold a meeting. With MapPoint 2002, she can use the new
feature around that facility, then select all the data points within that zone and export those records to Microsoft Excel for inclusion in a mailing list. The Drivetime Zones feature is also useful in planning delivery routes or customer visits.
PressPass: What differentiates MapPoint from other business mapping tools?
Graff: MapPoint is unique because it comes with all of the data and tools customers need to effectively visualize and communicate information using maps. Microsoft also creates and licenses the highest quality spatial and demographic data available, whereas many other mapping products require users to purchase additional data sets to perform certain functions.
MapPoint 2002 has vastly simplified some functions that have traditionally been complex and made them more accessible to the average business user. For example, to see a map showing sales of multiple products by ZIP code, MapPoint customers can simply drag and drop their data onto the map. MapPoints data-mapping wizard will guide them through the process, step by step. There are no complex concepts or terminology to learn — if users are familiar with any Microsoft Office application, they can immediately get up and running with MapPoint.
PressPass: How have the customization capabilities of MapPoint been improved?
Graff: First, new data-mapping features such as pie charts, series charts and column charts, as well as multiple pushpin symbols, have been added to increase users ability to customize the way their maps are displayed. Custom pushpin symbols are now offered so users can put their companys logo into their maps, or any other symbol they want to create, in addition to the dozens of symbols already included in the product. To many, this may seem like a minute detail, but the ability to add a logo or any other graphic and tie that into a location really has strong communication value. This feature alone makes a map more personal, and it seems to be resonating very well with MapPoint users.
PressPass: What does support for Microsoft ActiveX, Microsoft Visual Basic and COM mean for businesses rolling out MapPoint?
Graff: It gives software developers the ability to access MapPoint functionality programmatically, so they can start integrating customized maps and location intelligence into their own solutions or line-of-business applications. MapPoint can now be built into an independent software vendors application or into an organizations custom business solution, which opens up a lot of possibilities for businesses to include mapping within the context of their existing solutions.
PressPass: How has the content in MapPoint 2002 been improved?
Graff: Were constantly working to ensure that our content is up to date, bringing in the most recent demographic information from firms such as Claritas and CompuSearch. Plus, weve added more points of interest, so when customers launch MapPoint 2002 they will be able to locate restaurants, airport information, gas stations, ATMs, hotels, hospitals, campgrounds, even freeway exits. The North American version now includes over 6.4 million miles of streets, updated maps, demographics for 2000 and projections into 2005. Nearly 1 million points of interest are completely updated. Our European version also includes new, detailed maps with expanded street-level coverage and data in more areas. We also provide a Web search capability in MapPoint that works with MSN to search the Internet for related links for any place a customer clicks on the map.
PressPass: How will MapPoint 2002 work with Office XP?
Graff: Weve always done a great job of sharing information to and from Office applications, and MapPoint 2002s Office XP integration goes even further. In Excel, for example, customers can highlight a table of numbers and click the MapPoint button on the toolbar. If there is a geographic variable within the spreadsheet, MapPoint will embed a map and launch the data-mapping wizard to give them a view of that data on a map, right within Excel.
We have also added support for Smart Tags. So, if there is any piece of geographic data such as a state, city name or address in Word or Excel, MapPoint can automatically look up that location or address. Customers can also export selected information into Office applications. There are really countless ways businesses can take advantage of this, such as generating a list of customers within one of the Drivetime Zones, exporting selected demographics for further analysis in Excel, or embedding maps into Microsoft Word documents or Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.
PressPass: Will MapPoint 2002 be packaged with Office?
Graff: No, MapPoint is available only as a standalone application. However, MapPoint is part of the Microsoft Office family of applications. This means that MapPoint 2002 looks and behaves like Office and can easily share data with Office applications.
PressPass: How does MapPoint 2002 fit into Microsoft .NET?
Graff: We are exploring several exciting opportunities for using Microsoft .NET services, technologies and tools to deliver new capabilities to our customers. Our goal is to provide more-frequently updated map and demographic data, and to enable geographic functionality on a wider array of mobile devices. These are just a few of the things well be working on for future releases.
Right now, MapPoint gives customers the ability to connect to the Internet and download the most current road-construction data for the United States, so driving directions include warnings and notices for areas with planned construction activity. And with MapPoint 2002, customers can communicate their information via the Web using the enhanced
“Save as Web Page”
feature. Web pages saved from MapPoint 2002 can include hyperlinks to other maps, Web pages or files, and users can set their MapPoint Web pages to update each time the underlying MapPoint file is saved so the maps on the Web page always show the latest data.
PressPass: Will MapPoint eventually become a Web-based service?
Graff: This is something we are looking at quite seriously. The main benefits to going in this direction would be the ability for customers to access their data from any Web-connected device, and the ability to always get the most updated map and demographic data and points of interest information. In addition, we believe there are great opportunities for integrating location intelligence and information into a wide range of customer applications on both wired and wireless devices. Well continue to spend a lot of time talking to our customers to determine the best way to meet their needs and expand the capabilities and usefulness of our maps and geographic information.