MapInfo Professional 10.0 Rollout Tour: When the Hype Stays Home
MapInfo Professional 10.0 Roadshow rolled into Boston in mid-September.
The Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) event followed the same
successful formula as the last one in 2008. (Directions Magazine coverage)
First, Moshe Binyamin, the global product manager, shared some tips and
tricks for existing versions and the new version 10. Then, attendees
formed into teams for a focus group exercise. The grand finale was a
look at what's new in version 10.0.
The Roadshow Experience
Before I share some of what happened, I want to point out a few unique
characteristics of these rollouts. These are not like the events I'm
used to attending for a new release of, say, AutoCAD or ArcInfo. Why? A
The focus is not on selling the upgrade. While the event was sponsored
by Maine-based Mitchell Geographics, there was no discussion of the
cost of the upgrade or limitations or special offers. The fact that the
tips and tricks were focused on existing, in-use versions made it clear
that organizers wanted attendees to go home with some new tricks to
try. The immediate goal was not to get them to upgrade but to better
use the version they were already using!
There is no talk of aligned products. Every other rollout event from a
well-established company includes at least a slide and often specific
sessions on the product family and/or related products. This event was
100% MapInfo Professional.
There's no (or almost no) positioning of the company, discussions of
its market share, growth, etc. These events are all about the
customers, the products PBBI has made for the customers and the
products the company will make for the customers in the future.
The event is as much about listening to the attendees as about talking
to them. While I'm sure the marketing people carefully count how many
people attend the events in each city, I'm also sure the most valuable
thing the organizers take away are the questionnaires each focus group
Tips and Tricks
I enjoyed the tips and tricks session, and based on how many people
were taking notes, the rest of the attendees did, too. I enjoyed it not
so much because I use MapInfo a lot (I use it occasionally), but
because some of the hidden "goodies" exist (or should exist!) in other
GIS and non-GIS products.
Do all your programs have a list of "recent files" conveniently located in the File/Open dialog?
Can you open a file for editing (that would normally be read-only) by ticking a box in the open dialog box?
Can you, in your GIS, trace (line follow) automatically?
Can you quickly and easily "move the map" when you are in the middle of "doing something else" such as digitizing?
Can you draw freehand and then use the path in another package?
Of all the features shown in this session, I was most surprised at how
few people were aware of the MapInfo tools to export KMLs that can be
used in Google Earth. An early version of that tool was announced in
2006 and an article on the topic was, for some time, one of the most popular articles at Directions Magazine.
My guess about the apparent interest in it today? Back when it was
launched, users were not using Google Earth; it hadn't found its role
in professional GIS toolkits. Today, I think Google Earth has made its
The Postcard Campaign
"Mapping is important to PBBI." That was the firm statement from Jon
Winslow, global portfolio director for location intelligence at PBBI.
He appeared via a video where he stood right next to a life-sized
series of PowerPoint-style bullet points. He detailed the PBBI mission
statement and pushed his statement back to attendees as a question: "Is
mapping important to you?" Attendees were asked to answer the question
and explain why mapping was important on postcards, complete with their
own name and address on them. PBBI staff would read the replies, and
then send the cards back to their authors. I'm still a little fuzzy on
the goal of the exercise, but I did note that most people filled out
the cards and turned them in.
The Focus Group activity was not a complex secret process. The
attendees were divided into groups of about five and asked to discuss,
and then individually vote on which topics in a few categories PBBI
should pursue in the next release. One topic was "Big Items," that is,
items that would take quite a bit of resources to accomplish. It was
likely just one would be included in the next release. The second topic
was "Medium Items," of which three or four might be in the next
release. The final topic was "Other Items," smaller projects of which a
handful might be in the next release. Then there were questions about
data management (how it's done now, how much data users have and use,
the need for metadata tools, etc.)
What was most interesting was the general consensus among the groups -
even though the types of users (public sector, private sector,
consultants, educators, etc.) were mixed among them. After each group
presented its findings, Binyamin noted that after 12 of these events
clear patterns were emerging.
Among the most wanted enhancements were more tools for the browser
window (the data table window), multiple symbol styles for layers (so
they change as you "zoom in," for example) and the ability to rename
layers (with spaces in the names!). The discussion of data management
revealed that most users muddle through data management by hand (not
using any special tools) and that few have requirements for ISO style
metadata. (At least one person in my group was not at all familiar with
FGDC or ISO metadata standards.)
There's been much written about the new features in MapInfo Professional Version 10 (including a Directions Magazinepreview and review)
so I won't detail all of them here. One interesting aspect of the demo
was the juxtaposition of performing some layer operations in version
9.5 (and counting clicks and "ok" buttons), then performing the same
things in version 10, with far fewer clicks and "oks." The biggest
response from attendees followed the demonstration of the v10.0 ability
to create layered PDFs. There were questions about the size of the
resulting document, about turning on and off layers and an audible sigh
of relief at the thought of sending a single PDF document instead of a
series of JPEGs to those in need of maps.
In all, I think this low-key event got both MapInfo Professional users,
and those who build the product, excited about the near term- and
long-term future of the product.
If you are a MapInfo user it's definitely worth your while to attend the half-day event. There are several more ahead this year, including one sponsored by Korem/Primus Geographics that is
being held in conjunction with our Location Intelligence Conference in
Westminster, Colorado on October 5. It takes place on Monday, Oct. 5,
at 8 a.m. Contact Korem/Primus Geographics to register: 720-200-4323