Anyway, we have started work on an Outlook add-in for whereyougonnabe, so I thought a logical thing to investigate would be this existing Live Search Maps add-in for Outlook - it would be an easy way of associating a location with a calendar entry, including validation of the location with a nice interactive map, all within Outlook. But when I started looking for it, I found lots of references to it online, but the add-in seems to have mysteriously vanished.
For example, this post on 12 Cool Outlook Add-Ins To Make Your Inbox More Social And Productive, dated April 17th, 2008, says:
The Live Search Map add-in for Outlook lets you add maps and directions to the meeting requests while sending it to the attendees, calculate travel distance and estimate travel time between locations, add meeting reminders with estimated travel time blocked in the calendar.
You can see the maps in various types of views like 3D, aerial, road, bird’s eye etc., print map and directions and even save the details for viewing offline.
However, when you follow the link it includes, which should take you to an Outlook site, this just redirects you to the maps.live.com site, with no sign of an Outlook add-in. Several other links I found did the same thing (for example from a glowing review by Ars Technica). Mysterious!
After a bit more hunting around, I found several recent Microsoft support posts talking about problems with the Live Search Maps add-in. This one on MSDN, dated 22 October 2008, says:
Several million of you have downloaded the Live Search Maps Add-in for Outlook which allows integration in Outlook with maps and has some cool functionality around extending your appointment blocks to account for automatically calculated travel time among other things. We have received a large number of support cases that are caused either directly or indirectly because of this add-in. These include hangs, crashes, and leaks.
It then talks in quite a lot of technical detail about the problems caused, and says that it may cause data corruption problems, before saying (the emphasis is mine):
The long-term plan for what to do about all the problems in this add-in has not been determined at the time of writing of this blog, but it may result in the download being removed from microsoft.com. This won’t help you fix up any items that already exist in your calendar though – nor will it prevent users from using the add-in if they already have it downloaded and installed.
Another support bulletin from Microsoft, dated December 16, 2008, describes how to uninstall the plug-in, saying:
The Live Search Maps add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook can cause significant problems for users of Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007. These problems can cause Outlook to crash or to perform other undefined behavior. Additionally, the Live Search Maps Add-in creates items that have incorrect values. These incorrect values create problems with messaging applications.The process to remove the add-in and clean up data seems fairly complex.
I haven't been able to find any information online to confirm this, but it seems to me that the add-in has indeed been removed, presumably because of these problems. For an add-in that is used by "several million" people (according to Microsoft), and clearly provides useful functionality (if it is working correctly), this seems a pretty unprofessional approach. I would expect that the original download page should still be there and should make some statement about the problem and what is being done to fix it, or whether this functionality is just being abruptly discontinued.
Does anyone out there know anything about this? Anyone from Microsoft care to fill us in?