So the GIS conference funny season starts off today at the Esri Federal GIS Conference. Clearly the Feds don’t need power strips to power their laptops as I can’t find any place to recharge in this hall. While sitting down I hear Esri reps talk to people in the hall. They keep talking about “ArcGIS 4” being the great new product. It took me a while to figure out that they weren’t talking about the mythical follow on to ArcView 3.x but an unfortunate talking point problem. ArcGIS 4 is actually “ArcGIS for <blank>” where <blank> can mean anything from “basemaps” to I guess actual analytics. Still ArcGIS 4 seems to confuse more than help. Maybe Jack getting on stage and saying it a couple times will make people understand.

Jack took to the stage and jumped in to how Esri and GIS are helping people do their jobs. Jack then brought out David Shell, Founder of OGC, to give him a “making a difference award”. I’ve got serious issues with many OGC standards, but I’ll give it to them that they have changed things. Hopefully they can make a difference and kill WMS.

David Hayes, today’s keynote, then stepped up and talked about how GIS and data are changing the Department of the Interior. Sorry Brian, no mention of BLM and their GeoCommunicator failure. Mr. Hayes says geospatial technology is the most important tool for Federal Government. I swear I could hear the consultants in the audience salivating at that.

Shouting at Cloud

When Jack came back on the stage, he jumped into “GeoInformation Products”. Jack says this is a code word for “maps”. Jack then said this is the “most exciting year of his life”. Reasons why include crowdsourcing, da cloud, collaboration, bigger pipes, social networking and of course GIS. Cloud GIS, according to Jack, is the new pattern in our space. He points to better access and common infrastructure (built on ArcGIS) that will help coordinate work inside and between agencies. Jack is clearly saying that Esri GIS in the cloud is how the Federal government will be doing business.

Jack says 10.1 will be released in about 8 weeks. He calls this Esri’s biggest release, ever. He says it will make ArcGIS easier. He says it takes part on the old Desktop and Server, but also in the “cloud”. Of course, Esri started with ArcGIS Online (which may or may not be ArcGIS.com, I can’t tell). It is, according to Esri, content mangement. He says that ArcGIS Online is about Intelligent Web Maps (so it isn’t content management). The idea is that you have one map in ArcGIS Online and share it with other Esri clients. ArcGIS Online enables; GIS, self-service mapping, office and organization.

ArcGIS Online seems to be a Google Earth Builder competitor. I’m not sure though if this is what people are really looking for. Are Google and Esri creating tools to one up each other rather than just provide what users what. I guess both services are aimed at federal customers who want this stuff.

Esri announced a product that integrates into Microsoft Office. There is now an Esri Maps “ribbon” that gets added to (at least this case) Excel. Unlike the ArcGIS Online, this tool actually seems to integrate into your existing workflows. The most brilliant feature? Share to Powerpoint. In addition they have integrated the toolbar into PowerPoint to add maps directly inside your slide decks. Beta will be available in late March going final late summer. Jack then came back out and says ArcGIS Online is integrated with SharePoint and Office, IBM Cognos and Salesforce.

Next up was ArcGIS for Desktop (not ArcGIS 4 Desktop). 3D, Imagery (you don’t need Erdas), sharing work with ArcGIS for Server or ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS for Server is 64bit and finally have a good Linux version. Esri is going to continue supporting Flex, Silverlight and JavaScript APIs. Thus if you’ve bet the farm on these APIs, you can continue doing so with 10.1. Mobile is still on iOS, Android, Windows (Phone/Mobile) and ArcPad. I’m not seeing any Mobile JavaScript API talk yet.

Jack mentioned he spend $300 million on 10.1 development. The next version will be called 11 (or 10.2) and Esri wants you to visit their Ideas site to post what you want (like drag and drop CSV files).

<break for lunch>

The afternoon sessions included outlining Esri’s “commitment to open and interoperable standards”, mobile clients, City Engine and new features of ArcGIS 10.1. It appears the new tools for imagery analysis, lidar and video extend the platform out far. I think the DevSummit will be the place to learn more about 10.1 and what’s coming.

The Esri Federal GIS Conference is aimed at Federal GIS user base so it isn’t an area I’m working in. With each new release, Esri pushes ArcGIS that much further as the geospatial choice for the USA Federal Government. The scale here is quite impressive to behold, others wanting to compete better get their act together.