Microsoft Plans To Retire MapPoint Software By The End Of The Year

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Follow on: Google +

The venerable ancestor of Microsoft’s navigation apps will be finally laid to rest – and UK favourite AutoRoute goes too

Last week, Microsoft quietly decided to shutter MapPoint, its Windows-only mapping and navigation software. The announcement got little attention as the software has been superseded for most users by cloud services such as Google Maps or Microsoft’s own Bing Maps, but MapPoint had a 14 year history, and its European component, AutoRoute was a British success story.

Microsoft will stop selling fresh copies of MapPoint on December 31, 2014 – this includes both US and European versions. The sad fate will be shared by Microsoft’s AutoRoute (which was originally developed by UK’s NextBase) and Streets & Trips. However, online support will be provided until at least July 2015.

Despite the inevitable shift to the lcoud, MapPoint had advanced features including business information, and will be missed by at least some users.

Much loved AutoRoute

MapPoint was originally developed from Expedia Streets and Trips Planner 98, a consumer mapping application included with Office 97 Small Business Edition.

MapPoint2009Being enterprise-oriented, it featured extended geographic, business and demographic data, as well as basic analytics features – all without the need for an Internet connection. The innovation was fuelled by numerous acquisitions over the years, including Vexcel, Vicinity Corporation and GeoTango.

Streets & Trips was essentially a consumer version of MapPoint.

The story behind AutoRoute is no less interesting. “At a time when most software was text-based and came on floppy disks, AutoRoute stood out with its emphasis on graphics. The beta release was given to a small number of journalists and spread like wildfire. In fact, at one time NextBase Limited estimated almost half of the computers in the UK were running a copy,” details a farewell post from Microsoft.

In 1994, NextBase was acquired by Microsoft, and the NextBase team moved to the US to continue developing mapping applications.

“The success of these products would never had happened were it not for the loyal and supportive fans who purchased the product and its various iterations over the years,” commented Larry Petersen, test lead for Microsoft Streets & Trips.

“Speaking at RV rallies over the years, I’ve loved hearing about our avid customers’ experiences using the software to plan and enjoy road trips across North America. The feedback and enthusiasm from our users have helped make Microsoft travel planning software a leading solution for nearly twenty years.”

Users can still purchase a copy of MapPoint 2013 , the latest version with Metro-style icons, before the December deadline.

Microsoft advises customers to switch to Bing Maps, a platform which includes a lot of the MapPoint and AutoRoute technology. Enterprise users might miss the analytics features, but luckily there are still a few alternatives around.

For example Maptitude, developed by US-based Caliper, is proud to continue in the space vacated by Microsoft – and if not for an email from Caliper’s product manager Stewart Berry, the demise of MapPoint and AutoRoute would have passed us by.

“We work with many large clients who don’t want their data stored remotely,  or who need unlimited offline geocoding/address-matching tools,” said
Berry, “while smaller organizations balk at having to pay annual/monthly subscription fees for cloud services, rather than a one-off software purchase.”

With the departure of MapPoint, Berry says Maptitude is the “only value-priced desktop mapping software player left standing”.

What do you know about navigation software and GPS? Take our quiz!