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Microsoft has acceded to partners’ requests to provide more reasonable licensing options for MapPoint, a mapping software product now being tweaked by some integrators to create custom logistics applications for enterprises and SMBs that run their own fleets of cars or trucks.

Over the past few years, a number of Microsoft Corp. partners with logistics knowhow—such as Geotab/Fast Track Technologies Inc., Iteration2, Complete Innovations, and Baka Trak-IT Inc.—have been building new revenue streams by integrating Microsoft’s mapping software with their own applications and either MapPoint Location Server or outside GPS.

Embodied in the recently rolled out MapPoint Fleet Edition 2004, Microsoft’s licensing changes let partners and end customers pay for MapPoint on a per-PC basis, in place of the older method that also entailed payment for each vehicle tracked, said Trina Seinfeld, Microsoft’s lead product manager for MapPoint, in an interview with Channel Insider.

In a series of other interviews, industry analysts and Microsoft partners generally agreed that by bringing down overall licensing fees the move will help systems integrators sell MapPoint-based solutions to more customers.

“MapPoint is a great solution, and a fairly cost-effective way of getting a GIS [geographic information system] type of functionality, if you want to see on a map where your deliverers and couriers are located, for example,” said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

“But there was some little ‘gotcha’ in the old licensing terms that said customers had to buy a separate license for every tracked vehicle. I think that this [new] licensing model makes more sense for any company with a fleet beyond just three or four cars or trucks.”

“The power and strength of MapPoint have been underappreciated,” said Colin Sutherland, director of sales and marketing at Geotab, in another interview.

“Technically speaking, MapPoint Fleet Edition is the same thing as the [previously released] MapPoint 2004. But I think this new [pricing model] will help raise awareness among businesses operating field-force or asset-management applications that they should look at MapPoint,” Sutherland said.

Seinfeld said Microsoft decided to offer the new edition based on requests from both partners and end customers for PC-based pricing. But she also acknowledged that Microsoft stands to gain if the installed base of MapPoint users starts to extend use of the mapping software into new application areas.

MapPoint Fleet Edition 2004 is priced at $750 to $1,162 per PC, depending on volume license-pricing level. In contrast, pricing for the non-“Fleet” edition is about $299 per license—but a license is required for each tracking device, as well as for each PC used for tracking, evaluating and modifying MapPoint data.

Examples of tracking devices that previously required separate licenses include “Black Box” GPS systems, triangulation devices and “Lo-Jack scenarios,” according to materials on Microsoft’s Web site.

Pawlak said that he found the previous pricing model for MapPoint to be rather unusual. “My guess is that there were a lot of [customers] out there who were unaware they were supposed to be paying per vehicle tracked,” according to Pawlak.

But Microsoft’s Seinfeld maintained that per-vehicle pricing has been “pretty typical” up to now within the logistics industry.

“Payment [to Microsoft] has been on the ‘honor system.’ But most of our customers are honest,” she said.

Seinfeld said Microsoft’s MapPoint license had contained the provisions about separate licenses for tracking devices ever since the rollout of MapPoint’s first release.

Integrators and developers can customize MapPoint by writing applications, such as Word macros, that automate MapPoint, as well as by adding extensions to the mapping software. In fact, integrators have been using MapPoint to build a variety of applications in the logistics space. Utility Associates, for example, has integrated MapPoint as the new foundation mapping layer for Avail, its resource-tracking and management service.

Ted Davis, president of Utility Associates, predicted that the application will generate up to $3 million in sales for his company within a year, while saving customers between $10 and $30 per day.

Capabilities of Avail now include an “Advanced Messaging Engine” aimed at timely delivery of two-way messages to cellular handsets; vehicle routing; mobile worker location; vehicle tracking; vehicle history; and “Mobile Fleet View” for a quick view of all mobile assets.

Iteration2, an integrator that is also a user of Microsoft’s Axapta ERP (enterprise resource planning) service, has rolled MapPoint and MapPoint Location Server into an application designed to dispatch customers’ field-service resources to wherever they have highest value.

Meanwhile, Orkin Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Rollins Inc., is using Checkmate, a MapPoint-based application from Geotab, in its pest control services, to plan routes and monitor driver compliance with safety regulations.

Orkin’s vehicle casualty claims are down 33 percent, and driver efficiency has also increased, meaning that drivers are now able to make an average of two extra stops per day, according to Sutherland.

Sutherland said that Geotab switched to MapPoint from “nonintuitive, low-resolution and low-integration” vector-based mapping during the year 2000.

Customers find that the demographic mapping features added in the 2004 edition of MapPoint supply a lot of new functionality to applications, according to the Geotab executive.

Geotab’s Sutherland said he also envisions the use of MapPoint in a number of other areas related to logistics, including sales management and risk management.

The new Fleet Edition pricing for MapPoint became available to Microsoft partners within the ISV Royalty Program in January, and to members of Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Program in March.