RealTime IT News

Microsoft to AOL: Map This!

Call it the Internet's own version of Tyson-Lewis, Round (Whatever).

Microsoft Corp. is going toe-to-toe with rival America Online yet again, this time launching a new mapping service on its MSN network that will compete head-on with AOL's venerable MapQuest.com.

MapQuest, which launched back in 1996 and traces its roots back to the 1960s as a gas station map provider, was revolutionary in its day, showing nascent surfers just how useful the Internet could be.

Microsoft made no bones about its competitive effort, saying that "until now, most Internet users have only had access to maps and location information through AOL Time Warner Inc.'s MapQuest, which also provides online maps to Yahoo!"

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said its new MSN MapPoint offering is built on the .NET platform "and represents the beginning of MapPoint technology's migration to Microsoft .NET Web Services."

The new map service, like MapQuest, will offer maps as well as driving directions and points of interest. Microsoft said it is working with a variety of information providers to stitch together accurate, up-to-date and routable maps for the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. These are layered atop a world atlas rich with searchable data to enable users to explore the globe.

And in a bit of one upsmanship, Microsoft said MapPoint also enables users to zoom in, pan and resize maps without time being wasted by screen page refreshing. And directions and maps are printer-friendly so printouts are consistently clear and free of advertising clutter or awkward spacing.

Microsoft also is making the service an integral part of its Carpoint and HomeAdvisor offerings.

The Carpoint online automotive service and the HomeAdvisor online home and real-estate buying guide will provide proximity searches, determine the best routes, calculate driving directions and print easy-to-read maps.

Carpoint delivers real-time traffic updates, offers driving directions and finds the cheapest gas prices in the user's geographic area.

HomeAdvisor delivers details about neighborhoods and driving directions that direct prospective buyers to property listings in areas of interest.