>ESRI:More Waves in the Ocean

>The ESRI UC2007 conference is over. I did not attend this year. The conferences are tiring. And too big. Too big to be really helpful. Previous experience at the conference has shown me that spending time at the Doctor’s Office is the biggest aid of all. The rest is just too overwhelming. I will attend in 2008.

Not only is the conference become too bloated but also, in my opinion, is their software. ESRI was once the largest wave in the ocean of spatial products. That environment is changing, due to the likes of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and a few others. I ran across a statistic a while back that only a small percentage of users really want to do anything other than put a marker on a map. That is easily done today without paying for anything.

I work everyday in an environment where our students have all ESRI products accessible to them. I teach as much of those products as I know. My frustration easily mounts when I want them to constuct a 3D choropleth map but first I have to walk them through 3D Analyst first. This is a huge drawback in my mind. Needing an additional software extension, at a cost, to produce a cartographic product that should be part of the base software is mind-boggling.

I am stunned at how challenging the software is for the novice user. And the software is not getting easier. Stunned at how difficult producing visually pleasing map products has become. ESRI maintains a Mapping Center that everyone who maps with ESRI products needs to visit. There are some good tips at getting what you want out of ArcMap.

The difficulty of using their products, I predict, will lower their market share. Oracle will eventually challenge ESRI head-to-head. They have the spatial database and tools in development that will allow them to use their established user base for grabbing a portion of ESRI’s market.

Leica Geo-systems, with its recent acquisition of ERMAPPER and IONIC, will probably see its relationship with ESRI sour. Imagine is a good raster-based GIS system, and with its newly-acquired image-processing competitors, their capability will only become better. ESRI is trying to make strides into a realm where it has little experience, being a vector-based GIS system. The early bird has collected the worms…

I personally have used ERMAPPER and found it to be easy-to-use and faster in many cases than its new parent, Imagine. ESRI is going to find that keeping its lead into the future more challenging, as the gazelle feels the nips at its heels from the hungry lions.

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