Thursday unveiled a new .NET Web service: a new version of its MapPoint mapping service that integrates XML Web services technology to allow developers to tie the service into their applications as well as on mobile devices.
With MapPoint .NET Version 3.0, Microsoft aims to turn its mapping software into a platform for mapping and location-based services. For instance, in September, CRM software maker E.piphanypartnered with Microsoft to integrate MapPoint .NET with its Sales 6 suite of products, allowing E.piphany's end-users to have Sales 6 call the Web service to map customer locations, obtain driving directions and plot travel itineraries without ever leaving the E.piphany application.
"In order for sales teams to be effective, they have to understand their customers and to do that they need real-time intelligence," Phil Fernandez, executive vice president of products at E.piphany, said in September. "The addition of the Microsoft MapPoint service into E.piphany Sales 6 will give our customers' sales teams added location intelligence without added process complexity, and will demonstrate the benefits of using our Web services-ready CRM solution."
E.piphany is not alone. Dollar Rent A Car Systems has integrated the service with its Web site, allowing it to add MapPoint's functionality without sending customers away from its site.
"MapPoint .NET is essential for our Web site," said Larry Zucker, executive director of application development at Dollar Rent A Car. "It was incredibly easy to integrate into our Web site to help our customers find our locations. In addition, we are able to provide value-added travel tools for our customers, such as maps and driving directions to hotels in the area they are traveling to."
Other early adopters include Rentvillas.com, a vacation property rental agency specializing in upscale European holiday properties, and Nav2000.com, a non-profit information site for private pilots in France.
MapPoint's primary competitor, the MapQuest service offered by AOL Time Warner, has offered its APIs to partners for some time, allowing them to tie into the MapQuest service. However, AOL has not migrated the service to XML.
The new version of MapPoint offers a number of enhancements that both expand the areas it covers and readies it for use as a Web service. For instance, it features optimization capabilities that make it easier to render maps on mobile devices, and a feature called "reverse geocoding," which allows it to convert longitude and latitude into a street address. This feature is designed to help the service tie into GPS-based applications, like in-car navigation systems.
For the end user, Microsoft has expanded its street-level data for Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. It has also added new street-level data for Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Helsinki, Finland; Oslo, Norway; Portugal; Sweden; and Puerto Rico. Additionally, the service now includes more than 16 million U.S. business listings from Acxiom, as well as business data like several levels of standard industrial classification (SIC) codes, number of employees and sales revenue per location.
The software giant raises the curtain on MapPoint .NET 3.0, with new location-based features and expanded street-level data.