Microsoft Ships MapPoint 2004

Microsoft MapPoint 2004 entered general availability on Thursday. The updated release of Microsoft's business mapping software brings expanded demographic data, more map coverage and better support for mobile users.

The stand-alone application is billed as complementary to the Office suite and is designed to swap data with Office applications, as well as with COM-based and .NET-based applications.

Microsoft simultaneously launched the North American and European editions of MapPoint 2004 on Thursday. The U.S. estimated retail price is about $300.

The product uses some of the same underlying street data as Microsoft Streets & Trips, a consumer-oriented product that costs about $30 after rebates. In North America, for example, the 2004 editions both offer 6.7 million miles of routable roads. Where Microsoft begins to justify the tenfold increase in price for MapPoint compared with Streets & Trips is in the volume of demographic and consumer profiling data that is licensed within MapPoint, which is as much a business analysis tool as a mapping program.

MapPoint users can analyze the country through six types of geographic boundaries -- states, counties, metropolitan statistical areas, three-digit ZIP codes, five-digit ZIP codes and 2000 U.S. Census tracts. Consumer and demographic data in MapPoint are assembled from data providers including Applied Geographic Solutions Inc., Simmons Market Research Bureau Inc. and CompuSearch Micromarketing Data and Systems Ltd. At this point Microsoft does not offer subscriptions within the product to update the consumer profiling data, but the company is considering that approach for the future.

According to Microsoft, the 2004 version of MapPoint contains about twice the demographic data that the previous version had. Other enhancements include improved driving directions, support for more GPS devices and more frequent checks against GPS devices to better provide real-time location from the road.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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