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David Maguire blogs on why ESRI is part of 52°North.

Although there is a lot of hype associated with the open source software model and many overblown claims, it is clear to me that it can work (e.g. Apache and MySQL) and that there is significant interest in community development in the GIS industry. This is the backdrop to our positive decision to join the 52?North Initiative as a founding member of the oversight company.

What might become of this? Well 52°North website says they will focus on Spatial Data Infrastructures, specifically Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) and Security and Digital Rights Management (YUCK). I guess you have to start somewhere, but neither of these areas will garner much press. Then again, David says:

Frankly, we are unsure about where this adventure will take us, but we are committed to trying it out and seeing where it leads.

So maybe there might be more down the road than first appears.