Turn Your Laptop Into a GPS

Microsoft has given its MapPoint software quite an overhaul for the 2006 edition, adding full GPS support and enabling the importation of data for doing regional analysis.

The previous release of MapPoint was a desktop professional experience and somewhat similar to Microsoft’s Streets & Trips consumer mapping tool. This release is geared toward the mobile user and for performing business analysis based on regional data.

“This brings location-based data to the working professional both in the office and on the go, to provide you all the tools you need to examine your business data and provide you with trip data while on the go,” Alex Daley, technical evangelist for Microsoft, told internetnews.com.

With the GPS support, MapPoint 2006 comes in two forms, $299 for the standard version, and $349 for the version with a SirfStar III-based GPS locator. The locator is just an antenna that plugs into a laptop’s USB outlet.

Customers with their own GPS system can use their hardware with MapPoint 2006 so long as it is NMEA 2.0-compatible, according to Daley. The laptop and MapPoint software serve as the GPS system, complete with 1.6 million places of interest, like banks and hotels.

Along with the complete GPS system, that includes voice commands to guide the driver to their destination, anyone can find their exact position through the Wi-Fi positioning feature in Microsoft Location Finder. It accesses a database of known Wi-Fi access points to determine a user’s location.

Also new in MapPoint 2006 is support for importing and exporting geographic and demographic data to perform analysis and to visualize the data. The data mapping wizard can import data from a flat file, Excel or Access, but not SQL Server, and display the data on the map in any of a number of formats.

Things like regional sales can be displayed in pie charts, showing which regions are doing best and worst. Daley said MapPoint 2006 also has Census data sources built into it, providing customers with a wide range of demographic data.

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