A closer look at Map Portals

By Joe Francica

And so, the problem with map portals is very simple.The assumption is that you know your address.Sorry, but most business travelers probably know that they booked a hotel in downtown Boston or New York and need to get to some place for a business meeting.Maybe you know the address of the meeting, but your hotel? Perhaps you cab it...or maybe you have a Hertz NeverLost system...or maybe not, and you have to drive.The test here, then, is one address and one point of interest.The address you need to get to is 250 West 38th Street, New York, NY.The point of interest: The Marriott Hotel on Broadway, your abode for the evening.The object is to get from the hotel to the meeting.The task is this: which portal gives you the easiest workflow.Each has the ability to look up the business name in a Yellow Pages directory or as a point of interest.And so, with Microsoft entering the fray with MSN MapPoint, here's a quick look at the information provided by the more popular Map Portals.

MapBlast: First, I liked the choices to start your map search by "Airport City" or by major "Landmark." Again, having understood previously that you cannot just type in the hotel name, I went right to the Yellow Pages.[You can start with the "Directions" tab, but it does not allow you to look up the Point of Interest or Landmark] You set the basic location city (New York) and type in the name and business type.I used "Marriott" for the name and "hotel" for the business type.It finds long list of hotels but "Marriott" is in the list and when you click on it, your first choice is the Marriott on Broadway and when you click on it, the address is quickly found.Next, go to the directions TAB, select your "address history" location (the Marriott) and then type in the W.38th Street address.The address is found and the "Get Directions" button provides the directions.Nice job.The estimated travel time is 4 minutes for 0.94 miles of travel.

MapQuest: With MapQuest, the hint here is to go directly to driving directions.No need for a Yellow Page lookup.By searching on "hotel" in the "Points of Interest" field, you can easily retrieve the hotel directly for New York.Once the hotel location is found, the directions can be typed into the "TO" location field and the address is found.The estimated travel time is 3 minutes for 0.93 miles of travel.

MSN MapPoint: The MSN MapPoint portal did not have a look up option for landmarks or hotels, so I went directly to the Yellow Pages, which presented a list of choices, one of them being the Marriott.I then went directly to "Driving Directions" which assumed that the Marriott was the destination, not the origin.No matter, I typed in my preferred origin and destination and the estimated travel time is 4 minutes for 0.9 miles of travel.Now interestingly enough, is the fact that MSN MapPoint uses MapQuest for its directions.

Is there a difference? I think it's a matter of preference.The MapQuest interface allowed you to search on the hotel locations directly from the "Driving Directions" tab, so that is somewhat easier.The MapBlast Yellow Page look up will map the location from the Yellow Pages and place that into the "Address History" dialog box directly.It is somewhat disappointing, perhaps strange, that MSN MapPoint did not use their engine for the driving directions.Maybe this will come in future update.

Published Thursday, February 14th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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