We are ready to go at the Plenary and Jack Dangermond has taken the stage and is giving away awards.

Jack then jumped into the ‘vision’ of the 2009 UC. Jack calls us designers and it falls into three areas; software, systems, geography. The first two are well know, but designing geography is really what this conference is about. GIS + Design gives us a plan for decision making. We do get our first look at ArcGIS Desktop 9.4 and its new creation tools. The 9.4 demo later this morning should be impressive. Maps and GIS are changing; and there are many new ways to take advantage of the new technology to improve GIS. Jack’s slide references the cloud incorrectly, but I guess it depends what the term ‘cloud’ means to you. His cloud aligns more with the Internet as a whole than a specific cloud process.

The web is a strong platform for GIS and it is about distributing geographic knowledge. I find it interesting that ESRI has replaced the Windows Mobile Phone graphic on their slides with an iPhone. Being able to leverage the iPhone or Blackberry is easy because ESRI took the time to create a great RESTful API. Others should take note.

ArcGIS according to Jack is a ‘complete system’ consisting of Desktop, Server, Mobile and now their ArcGIS Online. The Geodatabase organizes your spatial information with a model. ESRI says if you want to leverage the power of GIS, you need to stop using Shapefiles and start using the Geodatabase. At 9.3.1 ESRI looked at quality, performance and cleaned up some licensing issues. ESRI then showed some of the same demos from the ESRI Developer Summit with the speed improvements to ArcGIS Server. The optimized map service toolbar was covered before so none of this is new. One new announcement is that their APIs are free for non-commercial use. We should see a huge uptick in the use of ESRI’s JavaScript, Silverlight and Flex APIs.

ArcGIS content is king of course. ESRI has been offering data on CDs/DVDs for years and since 9.2 they’ve had their ArcGIS Online services. Bing Maps has been included at no costs for 9.3.1 users which we’ve known about for months, but the DeLorme World Atlas maps are just incredible. If there is DeLorme Kool-aid, I’d be happy to sip on it. ESRI has also improved much of their free data layers that are freely available to Desktop users.

Bern then got up and showed some of the new ArcGIS Explorer features. I’ve been lucky enough to play with ArcGIS Explorer 900 on the beta and it really shows of a great user interface (take note of that ESRI Flex API users). Remember if you are an ESRI ArcGIS Desktop user, you’ll get complete access to the Bing Maps services for free. The biggest feature I think at 900 is the ability to switch between 2D and 3D maps. Sometimes it is better to work with a 2D view for presentation purposes. You can author layers in ArcGIS 9.3.1 and then create a layer package and push to ArcGIS Explorer with all the rich cartography. The integration between ArcGIS Server and Explorer is impressive and you’ll want to hook it up to AGS to gain the full functionality of AGX. The presentation mode of AGX should be a great way for ESRI users to share their geospatial projects. Bern and the AGX team has done an incredible job.

Then Rob Shanks came up to show the new ArcGIS Online sharing tools. Basically you need to create layer packages to get your data into the ArcGIS Online system. The layer package is nice because it allows you to share the symbology with your dataset. You can share the dataset with everyone or groups you define. You tag your uploaded data to enable to be found by other users. Remember layer packages are disconnected from your data storage so if you want to ensure that users get the latest data, you’ll have to share the web services. Of course you’ll have to host the web service yourself. The ArcGIS Online service is still early in its development so it will be interesting to see how and where it grows. ESRI describes ArcGIS Online as Flickr.

Clint Brown then was featured in a video talking about the new ArcGIS Online Templates. I’ve always thought that ESRI never invested in the templates in the past so it is great to see them starting to offer new ways to create great looking maps without any effort on both Desktop and Server.