Mapping With Meaning

By Dan Muse | Posted September 23, 2003
When you hear the term "mapping" you probably think of getting driving directions to a vendor in the next town or plotting a trip to an out-of-state seminar. While mapping certainly includes those types of geographic topics, as it applies to the just-announced Microsoft MapPoint 2004 it's about much more.

Actually, Microsoft describes MapPoint 2004 as "business mapping and location-based data visualization software." In simpler terms, by adding demographics to your map, MapPoint attempts to be a sales and marketing tool as well as geographic aid. "It helps you decide where to open a business, figure out who your customer is, or determine how far customers have to travel," Andrew Mackles, Microsoft's MapPoint Group Product Manager said.

Mackles said the biggest improvement over the previous version of MapPoint is the expanded demographic data (the software now has 300 demographic and consumer purchase behavior variables). For example, Mackles points to Microsoft's partnership with Simmons Market Research. Samples of the demographic variables include the following:

  • Automotive club membership
  • Book/CD purchase
  • Casino gambling
  • Convenience store usage
  • Credit card/department store/home shopping habits
  • Insurance plans used
  • Investment patterns
  • Movie, live theater and concert attendance
  • PC usage: connection type, personal banking, online shopping
  • Supermarket shopping habits
  • Travel, vacations, frequent flyer program participation
  • Vehicle ownership and vehicle most likely to purchase
  • Yellow pages usage
Additional demographic data on everything from crime to tourist expenditures is provided by Applied Geographic Solutions, Compusearch for Canada, and Worldwide Demographic Data. Mackles said that Wizard-based tools make applying the demographic variables straightforward, so you don't need to be statistician to get the most out of MapPoint.

MapPoint 2004 operates as a standalone application, but is also built to integrate with the Microsoft Office Suite to help businesses locate customers and prospects, analyze data and trends, and discover risks and opportunities. For example, you could important an Excel spreadsheet with customer addresses and plot those names on a map to help plan a sales trip, define sales territories, consider regional offices, and so on.

Microsoft reports that MapPoint's smart tags are designed to recognize geographic information in an Office document. A MapPoint button, added to the toolbar in the Office applications, lets you insert a map and driving directions without leaving an Office application.

You can also install MapPoint on Tablet PCs or notebook PCs so you can take your maps on the road. It ships with Pocket Streets so that maps can be downloaded to Pocket PCs and includes more than 1.4 million business listings to help you locate ATMs, hotels, restaurants and gas stations. MapPoint is GPS-compatible for tracking real-time locations.

MapPoint 2004 has a suggested retail price of $299.

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