As MapInfo (NASDAQ:MAPS) is learning, sometimes a new competitor can be good news -- even a rival as big as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Google's introduction of its innovative mapping products awakened many users to the power of using maps. On MapInfo's quarterly conference call, the CEO indicated that this newfound awareness has been a big plus when MapInfo talks to new customers. True, Google Maps is mostly a consumer product, whereas MapInfo targets the enterprise market. But Google maps has shown the power of mapping various sets of data -- traffic congestion or reported crimes, for example -- to specific locations. Google is validating the use of maps as a decision-making tool, which makes it easier for MapInfo to sell customers on its own mapping solutions.

In MapInfo's last quarter, revenues increased from $34.6 million to $38.9 million. For the quarter, net income increased from $1.1 million, or $0.06 per share, to $1.6 million, or $0.08 per share. But the growth was accompanied by cost-management problems; operating margins declined, despite the aforementioned revenue growth. I think this stemmed partly from the company's acquisitions, its attempt to juggle different product lines, and even its Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

MapInfo provides sophisticated mapping solutions to large businesses and governments, mapping given sets of data to specific locations. That's a difficult trick to accomplish, which may partly explain the company's recent acquisitions. MapInfo's recently launched Demand Insight Financial product, which lets banks forecast demand for financial services among various segments of U.S. markets and target their marketing for maximum returns, originated from the company's acquisition of MarkeTech systems. It's just one of several purchases MapInfo has made to add new markets and product lines.

The company has a hefty $75.6 million in the bank, providing more fuel for acquisitions. In addition, MapInfo posted $2.6 million in cash flow in the fourth quarter. But its pricey solutions make it difficult for the company to win over cost-conscious potential customers.

As online mapping grows in acceptance, and companies seek better intelligence on their markets, MapInfo will be well-positioned to benefit -- but that will take time to develop. Mapping has traditionally been obscure; most companies don't even realize that you can combine maps and data to gain insight into customers and markets. But as Google proves the power of mapping to more and more people, MapInfo's own solutions may gain greater and greater acceptance.

Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.