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Autodesk maps attack

Autodesk introduces a new product aimed at dominating the Web-based mapping market.

Autodesk (ADSK) is aiming to dominate the Web-based mapping market with a new product being introduced today.

Autodesk is announcing its new GIS system, along with several other Internet products, at its fourth annual user conference in Chicago. The announcements are in keeping with Autodesk's strategy to continue to diversify and focus more on the Internet.

Autodesk also is introducing a plug-in that allows designers to exchange AutoCAD drawings over both the Internet and private intranets.

"People involved in design often have very large files that they need to work with in a large team, and often these teams are spread out over many locations," Autodesk spokesman David Radoff said. "They need to collaborate, and the Internet is a way to collaborate."

The kit costs $99.

The GIS product, using technology from MapGuide, will allow users to post interactive, living maps on the Web. For instance, a city planning department could post a road plan that would allow users to see the changes in the project as they occur, Radoff said.

"Map-generating sites are becoming ubiquitous on the Internet," Dataquest analyst Kathey Hale said in a statement. "In much the same way that Netscape challenges Microsoft's control over desktops with its Web-based user interface, Autodesk is positioning itself to remake access to existing spatial information, turning it into a series of point-and-click experiences."

The product has three components: a Netscape-compatible viewer for obtaining information; an authoring product, and a server. The server runs $19,500, but users only pay $39 for the plug-in.

Autodesk also is introducing WorkCenter for the Web, an Internet document management application that allows surfers to use Web browsers to view information on their computers.