MapInfo: Yesterday, today and perhaps tomorrow

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MapInfo is software that has been popularized on a regular basis as a competitive alternative to the ESRI dominance. Much has been written about this tool, I want to dedicate this post to a review on its trend than on its capacity, which according to 2008 Daratech study appears in seventh place in terms of sales in 2008 and sixth in terms of traditional GIS. How I wonder to know what participation have Open Source platforms that now have a good level of maturity.

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Before are:
1. ESRI
2. Bentley
3. AutoDesk
4. Intergraph
5. GE Energy (SmallWorld)
6. Leica (Erdas and more)

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Yesterday: An alternative to ESRI

MapInfo arises in the 80’s to compete from a partnership with Microsoft against the two extremes that meant ArcView and Workstation Arc / Info, both from the UNIX environment, one simpler than despicable, and the other extremely astral as it will always be considered. So in this scenario, MapInfo appears as a solution a little cheaper than ArcView, with more friendly-looking because it looks like Windows but with versions for both Macintosh and UNIX.

Meanwhile, the rest was in other waves, Bentley was insignificant towards the egeomates meant as Intergraph, AutoDesk was fighting its CAD world, GE SmallWorld was not even in dreams (and if not for GE it would not exist). Which did exist was ERDAS, now acquired by Leica and joined to the other accessories appears in the sixth place.

By the time Windows 95 had just appeared we were surprised by very simple things but that were wonderful in MapInfo, as the ESC button to stop hanging processes, zoom preview, changes in directories without losing the link, transparencies, easy to attach one to many and many to many. Things that ArcView 2.1 did not do as the contours creation, that with the MapInfo Vertical Mapper integration could do, and only Arc / Info was driving but we know at what cost (between $ 10.000 and $ 20.000).

Then, MapInfo at that time was a great alternative to the problem’s tyranny that was represented by ArcView 2 x, which continued the battle up to 3x and then appeared a mental gap that few recall about its matter.

Today, a robust tool

MapInfo users defend it with tooth and nail, even though they know their weaknesses (in versions prior to 9) in images treatment are accepted that for the output products generation (maps for printing) is wonderful. Some attractive features to AutoCAD style, like layers control and vector editing, among the things that have amazed me are the export to pdf with control layers, or the way which can be turned on or off the layers with a side panel.

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What happened is that MapInfo became a public company, and dependance on clip_image005who has more actions is complicated when compared with private companies like ESRI and Bentley, to give two examples. So to see MapInfo it must be considered these different stages: prior to version 7, before version 8 and prior to version 9. Hence of these is the rigor in their product Lifecycle.

If we measure Mapinfo against ArcView 9x (without extensions), both will go to penalty kicks, and Mapinfo wins in terms of functionality. If we measure it with Manifold, Mapinfo lost in terms of egeomates and price, but wins in output products generation and friendly environment. So MapInfo is a great tool, very robust in OGC standards, complemented with MapBasic, MapXtreme and Routing for building custom applications, not only for desktop but for the web.

At client level, Mapinfo supports WMS, WFS, SFS and GML; while acting like server MapMarker, MapXtreme and Envinsa make their pirouettes. MapXtreme performs both client and server.

The version 10 redesign is a great smoke, based on previous versions but I get the clip_image006impression that they turned out like a sock of an ice cream vendor. It can be seen, it has been done more than an interface renovation, and also a great effort to realize many weaknesses of previous versions, including its interaction with Postgre and PostGIS is very significant.

Perhaps tomorrow

The bad thing about this is that as being a public company and be acquired most actions by PitneyBowes, MapInfo becomes to be one more tool of a big business that hasn’t issue priority of GIS. What PitneyBowes looks for is a tool that can make geospatial adjustments to their platforms location, so the purchase could be more harmful than beneficial for the tool.

My sign is negative, but it is what does not happen to a private company, where its creator not only sees the money he can generate but the pride of having seen it been born and not unless the economic crisis is unbearable, it’s not its first output sold to the highest bidder or liquidate by shirking.

We hope it won’t be like this, because their market share is significant and more than market are clients who expect to maintain loyalty in both directions. Many tools I’ve mentioned here, as CadCorp and Manifold GIS would already like to have that privilege

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