The field is getting more an more crowded with free mapping APIs, so perhaps it's not surprising to see fee-based options aimed at a slightly different segment of the market popping up. Telcontar's offering, announced today, comes in two flavors, one that's hosted behind a firewall, for internal use, and a second service which Telcontar hosts (Telcontar Hosted Web Services). In both cases developers can create complex AJAX (asynchronous Java and XML) fronted applications with functionality that goes beyond the free offerings. Two press releases are available, one on the underlying technology and one on the hosted service.
I got a look at a sample application from the product manager, who is also the director of product marketing at Telcontar, Louis Bouchard. He explained that the offering is not exactly new; it's the commercial implementation of the company's Developer Zone offering that's been available for 10 months for non-commercial use. During that time, Telcontar and its developer community, some 300 strong, learned a lot about its use.
What distinguishes Telcontar's offering from other free and non-free services?
- the ability to switch styles (said another way, the tiles are not pre-rendered and thus can be styled on the fly)
- free form geocoding is available (typos and odd arrangements of address data are parsed with ease)
- NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas street and point of interest data are available, allowing searches on business names and types
- driving directions are available
- it's not offered by a large commercial company (some organizations for business reasons can't use such services)
For now, the service offers map data (no imagery) for the US and Europe. Imagery can be integrated from external sources and other coverage areas are expected in the future. Pricing involves a monthly fee plus a per transaction rate. Fees start at $1000 per month plus $5 for each 1,000 transactions. As transaction quantities increase, prices drop.
Bouchard made it clear that Telcontar has a very different business model than those offering free APIs. Indeed; those companies tie in advertising (or will soon) or hope to upgrade users to a subscription offering to bring in revenue. This is a traditional subscription model. And, that may explain why Telcontar, which provides its technology to Google, Ask and Yahoo, doesn't "really" compete against them at this time. Who are Telcontar's competitors in this space? ESRI, PlaceBase, MapQuest and a few others.