ArcGIS Explorer roadshow: London

Andrew Hudson-Smith over on Digitally Distributed Environments is our eyes and ears for an ESRI presentation given by David Maguire in London on Friday.

Maguire ran through the beta of ArcGIS Explorer: Andrew comes away very impressed. Those who see and use the closed beta of ArcGIS Explorer are reporting it to be in a different league to Google Earth, with analytical tools galore and features such as facade mapping.

Facade mapping will have to come to Google Earth, then, because I suspect Andrew will focus his 3D authoring efforts on whichever platform makes them look best.

But more broadly, what I think we’re seeing is an impending differentiation of roles for the different applications: Google Earth is bringing geospatial browsing to the masses, including people who until now might not have known their latitude from their longitude. ESRI ArcGIS Explorer, on the other hand, looks like it will democratize GIS among professionals who until now would have outsourced the GIS aspects of their projects.

Google Earth, then, will likely continue to focus on high-resolution content and social features, with time browsers and rich base layers so that it is the ideal presentation tool for 3D and spatial data authored elsewhere. ESRI ArcGIS Explorer will become Arc Desktop Light, a deft blocking move that raises the bar on entry by others into the GIS analytics market by making a subset of features — already developed and paid for — free.

The relationship between the two tools is likely to be virtuous, in that each enlarges demand for the other. If we’ve finally reached a point where improvements in computing power, internet access speeds and software authoring prowess are creating a tipping point for GIS as a mass market phenomenon, then the rising tide/lifting ships cliché will for once be apt.

One thought on “ArcGIS Explorer roadshow: London”

  1. Maybe I’ve been unduly scarred by the memory of numerous blue screens by trying to do some 3-D draping in ArcScene a couple of years ago, but I’ll remain cautiously skeptical until the release. Some backchannel chatter here stateside paints a less glowing picture of the release delays. But I’m not a hater by disposition, so I’ll shut up until I see something.

    For me though, the real breakthrough coming up in the next 18 months is the direct linkage of interfaces (such as Google Earth) to backend spatial database. Sure Oracle and IBM have been playing the game for awhile, but when MySQL and SQL Server adopt full spatial implementations (and the rumors on the ‘Net indicate they’re busy doing just that) and direct SQL querying then…game on. Our recent work with the wonderful open-source PostGIS database product has been an eye-opener: on-the-fly buffering, intersections, and spatial analysis all passed as SQL statements via PHP–no ArcServer, no ArcSDE, and certainly no ArcIMS. So when this type of spatial analysis is easier than buying a plane ticket at Travelocity, then only the very advanced GIS features will be the province of the hard-cores (what Dave Bouwman refers to as the ‘long tail’ of the GIS world).

    A couple of days ago in the All Points Blog, Adena wondered why she couldn’t get traffic count data for a San Francisco corner through her Google Earth interface. Well, ESRI has that data on-line as part of their Business Intelligence Services (BIS), which, the last time I used it gave you the output as…a PDF! Seems like this type of information could be commodified easily under the iTunes $0.99/song economic model and delivered to your map interface of choice.

    More interfaces, more pay-per-request data services, ubiquitous spatial databases…and dare we dream–less middleware?


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