For years ESRI has had versions of ArcExplorer. The first versions were based upon MapObjects while the later ones have grown out of ArcIMS Author. They work pretty well for most people, but their limitations are beginning to show. I think ESRI should introduce a new ArcGIS client that would enable people who want and need to view GIS data, but not perform analysis. The current versions of ArcExplorer don’t support Personal Geodatabases, Coverages and other GIS data formats that users need to see. ArcReader does a good job of displaying the data, but the PMF documents can only be created in ArcGIS with ArcPublisher and no data can be added in ArcReader.
A simple solution would be to sell a version of ArcReader that allows the ability to read PMF/MXD as well as add data to them. Leave the ArcToolbox and ArcCatalog out of it and sell it for about $49. I don’t think this would hurt the sales of ArcView as people who need to edit or perform analysis on GIS will still need at least an ArcView license. This ArcGIS ArcExplorer (it should be called ArcView, but that is already taken) would be able to connect to ArcSDE, ArcIMS services, ArcWeb as well as read all the GIS formats that ArcView can. I’m guessing one could create such an application using ArcGIS Engine, but I’d rather just have our planners, engineers, biologists and other users of GIS have an ESRI product on their desk. The cost of ArcView is just too much to put on as many desks as we have users who want it (since most of our clients are using Geodatabases we can’t have them view the data sets with ArcExplorer).
ESRI should be putting GIS tools in front of as many people as possible and this new ArcGIS Explorer would fit the bill very well. There are just so many datasets on the internet for download and if people could access them even on the home PC with ArcGIS Explorer they would have a tool to introduce them to GIS and eventually become an ESRI customer.