Opening An Application To Competing File Formats Is Good Business

By Joseph Schwartz

Among the new features in Microsoft's MapPoint 2002 is the ability to easily import data on the popular MapInfo and ESRI file formats. By expanding the boundaries of readable formats in this product, Microsoft is making things easier for the consumer while adding value and versatility to its latest mapping application.MapPoint 2002 is designed to import and utilize ESRI shape files and MapInfo files along with text files and MS Office file formats such as Access and Excel.

Microsoft is far from alone in the realization that proprietary boundaries blunt the effectiveness of applications.Companies such as Blue Marble and Manifold have made their mark in the digital mapping world by producing applications that make proprietary formats more universally applicable.

We can understand why developers want to protect the rights to their applications and formats.Developing those formats and applications represents huge investments.But from a consumer perspective, the real value in an application is its ability to access and manipulate the data.And users do not want to be forced into using one or two formats, particularly large or growing businesses that have existing GIS data but who want to expand their use of geospatial analysis without having to spend a fortune on training and on converting the formats of existing data.

The lesson to be learned from companies such as Blue Marble, Manifold, and Microsoft is not a new one: Consumers want versatile geospatial analysis products that are easy to learn and easy to use.Opening an application to competing formats may sound risky, but in the end the more versatile product is the more valuable product.


Published Tuesday, May 15th, 2001

Written by Joseph Schwartz



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