or hold back sharing of their information with others, experience would suggest that this is anything but true. The whole GIS concept and technology has been about sharing and integrating geospatial information for many sources. The Web and Web services pattern simply represent a new and powerful way to share information and collaborate in its use. 

Q: Can, for example, both ArcGIS and Google Earth coexist and prosper?

A: Yes. While these two techniques are designed for different purposes, they are being engineered to leverage each other. Making them interoperable benefits everyone.  GIS professionals can make their maps and information easily viewed in consumer viewers, and in turn, [the public] can enjoy these additional services. In addition, GIS users will consume more georeferenced Web information from many sources.  

Interoperability standards have made a difference here -- SOAP, XML, OGC, REST. 

ESRI has also implemented a full set of online services for use by our users, such as images, basemaps and related content. This content is free and easy to access by all of our clients, including a geobrowser client called ArcGIS Explorer. 

ArcGIS Explorer is a Google Earth-style viewer for professional GIS systems. It is being deployed in many organizations as the "enterprise GIS viewer" because it provides free content and supports visualization as well as the full spatial analysis functionality available in ArcGIS Server. This solution is ideally situated for casual users who want to use GIS but do not want to learn about the technology -- they just want to use it as a service. 


Q: From a technical standpoint, are Google Earth-type products GIS applications, or are they something else?

A: GIS is sophisticated technology, with a rich information model and data management infrastructure for maintaining geographic data. It also integrates, literally, thousands of tools for cartography, visualization, spatial analysis; it also supports many forms of customization to support a variety of workflows.   

The Web mapping/visualization tools represented by Google and Microsoft are focused on very fast and easy-to-use visualization of images and maps. They are engineered to do only a small portion of what a full GIS technology does. They are highly optimized for doing what they do, but are not suited for the more complex work that people using GIS tools do. [The differences] make these technologies interoperable for many benefits.


Q: How is ESRI adapting to what seems to be a changing marketplace for GIS applications?

A: This is a very exciting time for GIS and GIS professionals. We are seeing lots of interest, growth and adoption. This is driven, in part, by the growing awareness caused by consumer mapping/visualization platforms, and even more by the growing awareness and benefits that full GIS provide the organizations.   

ESRI technology is continuing to evolve -- particularly with respect to Web services. Our shift in focus to server technology is helping in this respect. We are seeing increasing interest in the ArcGIS Server platform, which allows our users to extend the applications of their geospatial knowledge to their colleagues in other departments, other organizations and on the Web using easy-to-use visualization browsers. What we also see is that our users seem to be migrating their systems from the desktop and departmental solutions into systems that interconnect many departments using shared GIS services: the SOA model. This Web services platform also is allowing users to integrate GIS and spatial processing with other IT business systems. This type of spatial enabling of business applications, while always possible, is now easier and promises to grow the GIS market enormously.

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.