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Product Overview: MapInfo’s MapXtreme 2004 on Microsoft® .NET

Wednesday, June 30th 2004
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In May, MapInfo Corporation announced the release of MapXtreme 2004 on Microsoft® .NET. The product represents the merging of two products, MapXtreme and MapX, into a single development platform and leverages the Microsoft Visual Studio .NET environment. The benefit of this new platform is to be able to develop either customized web or client-based applications within a single development toolkit. It also contains support for the following Open GIS Consortium specifications:
  • Web Map Service (WMS)
  • Web Feature Service (WFS)
  • Geography Markup Language (GML 3)
MapInfo's support of ADO.NET also extends the number of data sources that users can access with MapXtreme 2004.

Directions Magazine asked product marketing executives, Moshe Binyamin and Doug Gordon to comment on the reason that .NET was adapted for this particular product. According to Binyamin, “When we came to a point where we were evaluating our technology and going forward, we evaluated the technologies that were in the marketplace and comparing them to the requirements that we were seeing from our customers for both MapXtreme and MapX. And we were seeing that those products were aimed at the developer community; customers interested in integrating location aspects for developing customized location-based applications.


MapXtreme 2004 - Click for Larger Images

So, what we've seen there that customers were facing some difficulties in terms of integrating location (technology) in their enterprise. These were not necessarily MapInfo or our product offerings specifically, but they were general problems. There was no common language to develop in; one developer would be proficient in ASP; another in VB; another in C++ and their skills would rarely be able to intermingle and leverage all of them at once.

And then we looked at the .NET and what .NET was bringing to the table and what we've seen is that the .NET environment provided very attractive capabilities in terms of having a single development environment for desktop applications; for the web-enabled applications. You can mix multiple languages, all compiling at the CLR or missile code that can interchange and interoperate in a very smooth way. It provided the web developers with a very professional looking environment.

So, this gave us a great opportunity to go ahead and commit to that technology because that's where Microsoft was going for the maturation process: where they went from COM that evolved over time, and .NET was the “baby” of that maturation process. So, we're pretty happy in that direction from Microsoft and we've adopted that platform and rebuilt our entire object model on the .NET environment.

Also, we've asked ourselves the question of “We've got to make it easy.” What we wanted to do is make it as seamless and consistent as possible with the Visual Studio.NET environment. So if you are a developer and familiar with .NET, you know how to develop, you know how to interact with our technology.”

With regard to MapInfo moving all of their products to the .NET platform, Gordon said, “The .NET platform is the foundation for everything we are doing. It would not be correct to say that everything has moved, but there is no question that is the commitment and the direction we are going with all our products.

MapXtreme 2004 is the first major step in that direction. We've taken MapX which was our client-server product, and MapXtreme which was our server product and combined them into one. That engine is the foundation upon which we will build all our .NET and all of our Windows-based offerings.”

Will MapInfo migrate MapInfo Professional to .NET? Gordon says that, “There is a huge customer set that uses MapInfo Professional, which is a fully complete application; it is not what we would call a developer tool. In that application, there was the ability to programmatically extend what “Pro” could do and we will be providing that direction as we go forward. What we've done now is dealt with the developer tools, not the application MapInfo Professional.”

But MapInfo also has a long-term view of their development tools. According to Binyamin, “MapInfo is dedicated to providing location-based services on Java, Windows, and Web Services. Another opportunity that .NET allowed is to, while developing a Windows or .NET engine, to be able to facilitate that type of a direction going forward in terms of Web Services kinds of communication.”

Just how much of the investment that was made in MapBasic by users and developers will be able to be brought over to the .NET environment? Although that was not the objective of this release of MapXtreme, according to Gordon, “That scenario is absolutely in our sites at the moment, and is in our customers best interest, and in ours to make sure that we provide the smoothest, seamless path from MapBasic to the .NET or VB.NET programming environment.”

In also supporting the emerging industry specifications, such as WFS and GML, MapInfo made sure it was possible to develop applications with these guidelines in mind. “Not only do we need to provide location capabilities that customers are expecting but we need to make it interoperable, both from IT standards, and the second one is obviously industry standards,” said Binyamin. “We are obviously supporting Visual Studio .NET, for example, or supporting Oracle Spatial or other common databases such as Microsoft SQL Server or IBM Informix, or communication protocols such as ODBC or ADO.NET. And with the acceleration of the OGC standards, we decided to go ahead and build those connections straight into the product.”


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