The MapPoint Review?
Well, here we are at the end of the week and still no MapPoint review. We failed, but to be fair it has been a frustrating and bewildering process.
We downloaded a 60 day trial of the software (about 2Gb) and installed it without any problems. A first look at the software proved promising, ease of use, navigation creating a map showing household concentrations was all quite good (not perfect, but good). And then we hit a problem....
One of the main things we wanted to do to try the software out for business use was to import our own customer data and display it on a map - a function we feel is vital for any business wanting mapping software. And so we imported a customer database of around 7,500 records. MapPoint goes through a process of matching the records to it's own geographic data to give each record a location on the map and this is where the problem occurred.
After importing 7,500 records (of what we felt was reasonably clean address data), MapPoint said it could not find a unique location for around 1,100 records - about 15% of the file. Address matching is not an exact science and there will always be records that can't be matched but we expected, at most, about 5% so this was a bit of a surprise. After the matching attempt, MapPoint provides a useful process of presenting you with the records that didn't match, one-by-one, so you can select the appropriate address from the list MapPoint presents you with.
The problem we had was that for the majority of our addresses it couldn't match (granted we didn't do all 1,200) MapPoint presented us with identical addresses to pick from! For example, MapPoint told us it couldn't find a match for:
"100 Milford Road, Bath, Avon, BA2 5RW"
and asked us to choose the correct address from the following:
"100 Milford Road, Bath, Avon, BA2 5"; or
"100 Milford Road, Bath, Avon, BA2 5"
We thought maybe MapPoint should realise these are exactly the same but no, instead MapPoint presented us with about 1,200 of these to go through and manually fix.
After checking our data, using different databases and so on we encountered exactly the same problem time and time again. We went on-line to try and find a solution but with no luck. We tried to find any settings in the software we could play with to try and stop it happening but couldn't find any. Finally, as it is a new product, we thought we should let Microsoft know what we found so they could fix it with a patch new release. We called the help desk who finally told us they aren't offering any telephone support on the product as it is officially still in Beta...despite us saying we didn't need support, we were reviewing their software and were providing product feedback they still could do this over the phone. They directed us to their website to send them the feedback via email.
So we went to the website and found the area where we can send them a message. To do this we had to put the product id in and, having done so, it then proceeded to tell us that to send them the message was going to cost us £46! We thought this was a little cheeky - charging us £46 so we could tell them about a problem we have found with their software.
So, as it stands, we have been unable to tell Microsoft what we have found and are not sure when it will be fixed. It is a real shame as first impressions were promising but we feel let down by the import process and also by Microsoft support - any developer should have very easy lines of communication to get valuable product feedback.
So, the review is shelved for the time being as, in our opinion, the product is simply not fit for purpose at this time. How Microsoft will get to know about this problem and fix it we don't know but we'll keep an eye on it and finish the review when we can.
In the meantime, have a great Easter