Microsoft Debuts Mapping Web Service

Microsoft will host its new MapPoint.Net, a SOAP/XML-based Web service that allows software vendors to embed maps, driving directions, distance calculations, proximity searches and other location functionality.

NEW ORLEANS –Microsoft Corp. as expected today launched its first commercially available Web service, MapPoint .Net, a programmable platform for mapping and location-based services.

The company will host and maintain this SOAP/XML-based Web service, which allows independent software vendors, solution providers, carriers, portals and enterprises to embed maps, driving directions, distance calculations, proximity searches and other location functionality.

In an interview at Microsofts TechEd conference here on Wednesday, Stephen Lawler, a product unit manager for Microsofts geography platform team, told eWeek that MapPoint .Net will be marketed as a transactional and a subscription-based model.

Under the transactional model, the lowest amount a customer would pay would be an annual fee of $15,000 that would give it 2 million transactions. Payment for usage on top of that would be determined according to a volume discount, Lawler said. While payment details for the subscription-based model had been determined, they were not immediately available.

A number of enterprises are already using the technology, including Expedia, Fourth Coffee Co., MSN Mobile and Zone Labs. The Redmond, Wash., software companys plan is to add a richer set of functionality to target the business and personal productivity space in version 2, which is due next year, and the enterprise with the version after that, Lawler said.

"We are also guaranteeing 99.9 percent availability, with less than one hour of downtime a month. We are already handling several million transactions a day, and the system is designed to handle tens of millions daily as demand grows," he said.

The MapPoint service was "a natural" for the subscription model and would reduce the cost for customers, allow frequent data updates, and make it easier for data to be synergistic with existing rich client applications, he said.

The service itself, and the business model around it, could well find its way into upcoming Microsoft offerings like Office .Net, a hosted version of Microsofts next Office productivity suite, and Microsofts own consumer .Net My Services offering, Lawler said.