GIS Monitor July 26, 2001


-MapInfo Q3 Conference Call Highlights
-Location-based Games Growing
-Book Review: Open Access: GIS in e-Government

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Unlike many previous MapInfo earnings calls, this one was decidedly downbeat. The company failed to meet expectations for Q3 and reported earnings of 1 cent per share vs. 15 cents for Q3 last year.

The company attributed the poor earnings to slowing investments by telecommunications companies, which generate 35% of MapInfo revenues. The officers also noted a slowdown in the growth rate of new customers due to lowered IT spending across industries and the general lengthening of decision cycles. Competition was not a factor – a point mentioned repeatedly. The next two quarters are likely to be more of the same: single digit growth. When pushed for predictions, executives suggested $28-29 million for the coming quarter, about 2-4 cents per share. First quarter of next year could well be in the same range. For the year, the suggested estimates were 34 cents per share or about $112 million in total revenue.

Overall, the downturn affected software and data equally and cut across geographies. Mark Cattini, president and CEO made it clear that the company is not satisfied at all with earnings, especially for Canada and Australia. What went wrong? Sales execution of one product was the culprit in Canada but there was no particular issue in Australia. Cattini did highlight that two new Canadian products (StreetPro Canada and MapMarker Plus Canada) should get things back on track up north. Australia is still feeling the ERSIS acquisition, but new director David Taylor is expected to reinvigorate the region.

The best performing market was Europe, which grew 20% to $8 million in revenue. The UK was noted as being particularly strong this quarter. The US, in contrast, was up only 3%. Data continues to bring in 40% of worldwide revenue, up from 30% a year ago. Of that about 20% is from subscription offerings. Software comes in at 51% compared to 53% last year.

New customers broke down this way: a single custom was in the “over $1 million” category with three over $500,000. Seventy customers (new and existing, as I understood it) had orders over $50,000 compared with 78 last year.

The company feels confident the mix of products is correct. Customers are happy and continue to order, just in a more limited way. Cattini noted one customer who was ready with a $500,000 order that ended up ordering only $350,000 due to budget constraints.

As the company looks ahead, the expectation is continued software sales in traditional markets and the growing customer resource management areas (CRM). MapInfo Pro 6.5 is now certified on Window 2000. MI Aware should ship this quarter and the company anticipates signification interest. The wireless strategy has grown in three steps.

1. Partnering – Alcatel, Lucent and Motorola have signed on.

2. Bidding – MapInfo -- sometimes with partners -- has actively responded to requests and provided prototypes to wireless carriers.

3. Waiting – MapInfo is currently waiting on the results of these bids and is quite hopeful. Eleven total bids were tendered, most of which would generate $1,000,000 or more each in revenues. The contracts are expected in Q4 or Q1 2002 with monies coming in toward the end of next year.


Location-based games? Think back. Remember tag, hide and seek and capture the flag? "Assassin" was big at my college campus. Each player, armed with a squirt gun, was assigned a target. Each player also received a playing card. Each time you “killed” you took on the “dead” players assignment along with their playing card(s). The player with the most cards won. It was fun to do once.

Now, take that idea hi-tech. In Botfighters, your weapon, proximity alarm and locator are all your SMS (Short Message Service) supporting phone. After signing in at the gaming Website and building your robot, you are off and “running.” You can track other players’ whereabouts on your phone. Get within one kilometer, and you can “shoot” using SMS messages. Robots have personalities and different guns and protection. The winner of the battle receives points that can be used to “purchase” weapons and robot upgrades. The loser goes back to their point stash to rebuild. The game is currently in a trial phase in Sweden, with a UK trial set to come online soon.

Not surprisingly, the main demographic is males 15-25, who do other online and offline gaming. Critics suggest that this game may confuse fantasy with reality, especially for kids.

Does this sound fun? Compared to “Assassin” it sounds too easy. If your phone warns you someone is near and gives you an explicit location, what exactly is the challenge? It’s just not the same as lying in wait in the girl’s bathroom for your target to enter.

In short, I don’t think this is the killer phone game.


This book advertises ESRI in a big way. I HAD to get that off my chest. Having said that, ESRI uses many of its books (often provided gratis) to educate potential users, students and the general public about how GIS is used in a variety of areas. So, overall, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The book is loaded with pictures of Web sites from ESRI users with minimal explanatory text. Each of the ten US-based case studies sets up why the local, state, federal government or agency moved to the Web. Little is said of the issues involved in that choice or how they were resolved. Instead, there are pages and pages of discussion of what happens when a visitor hits this or that button on the organization’s page. This would make sense if you don’t have Web access and would serve as a nice overview of what’s been done. Otherwise, one would learn far more visiting the sites and actually pushing the buttons!

The marketing spin does take away from a colorful presentation. Many statements, woven throughout the case studies, make it clear you are reading a brochure: “The extension [to ArcView] allows anyone creating maps in ArcView GIS to deliver those maps over the Internet to anyone with a standard browser. More importantly, simple customization can make those maps interactive: letting you narrow the thematic focus of a map, or to pose questions about the features in it.” “With ArcIMS, you can create complete and self-contained e-government mapping services on a Web site that incorporate the kind of GIS power available inside an organization.”

URLs and detailed hardware and software configurations are available for each profiled installation and provide a good “reality check” for those exploring implementation. Still, this is not a how-to book, but a coffee table book of success stories.


-GeoTEC notes that Ray Mears (the “bushcraft” specialist) will give the keynote at their annual conference in Canada. It seems to me that show organizers announce keynote speakers just to remind potential attendees of an upcoming conference. There aren’t many conferences that I would attend because of a keynote speaker. Still, some of the keynotes that “came with” conferences were very memorable: James Burke (author of Connections) at an ESRI conference in Palm Springs, Bob Ballard (who found the Titanic and founded the Jason program) at NEARC and Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) at Autodesk’s CADCAMP.

-Devon Island, in Canada’s artic, is serving as a stand-in for Mars for scientists and those interested in pretending to be on the red planet. One team is working on a mapping mission.

-KFC’s children’s quiz game card says Vermont is not part of New England — and puts New York in its place. Oops. The good news: cards returned to KFC headquarters will receive a coupon for a free drink and new card. Word is the cards were manufactured in China.

-A new fabric from ElectroTextiles is being touted as the electronic building material of the future. It can be folded and is quite durable. First up, foldable keyboards due out later this year. There is also discussion of folding phones.

-dot-info sign up time began on Wednesday. Up until Aug. 27, those with a registered trademark can pay to reserve a dot-info domain. After that, it’s a free for all. The domain is to go live on September 19.


Ralph Grabowski, editor of Upfront.ezine, comments on the Location Privacy Protection act introduced last week to the US Congress. It aims to protect consumers from companies gathering and selling their locational information.

“The companies will easily get around the law: ‘you want service, you agree to our contract, which lets us sell info about you.’ Just like software companies, etc.”


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