Reflections on the ESRI 2005 User Conference

So now that I’ve been back for a couple days from the ESRI UC, what do I think about what I saw and heard?

  1. Developers are back. It had been quite some time since I really felt that ESRI was supporting developers of their software. Every couple years we get some cool new tools to play with, but they always seem to be put on the back burner to analysis. This year with EDN, developers really had a place to hang out and coupled with the Embedded, Mobile and Server Islands, most of the ESRI floorspace was devoted to developers. The first .NET Special Interest Group meeting was great because we got so many bright minds into one room (then they forgot to lock the door before I got in) and we got to talk one on one with some of the best developer minds at ESRI about what we’d like to see. I know Art wrote down quite a bit so we’ll have to see how quickly any of it can be implemented (If I had to chose only two I’d would like to see the “gotdotnet” type portal for ESRI developers and a ESRI Developer Summit).

  1. ArcWeb Services for the masses. The big stealth announcement was Public ArcWeb Services are now available. This should really start helping ESRI develop their GIS Services business, but I don’t think we’ll really see it take off until ArcWeb Services 2005 arrives. The demos I saw with the flash interface streaming vector files was very impressive. I’ve started playing with Public ArcWeb Services, but I’ve got no public ASP/JSP hosting site so most of this will probably just be internal or playing at work. REST support with AWS 2005 will change everything.

  2. Common Application Development Framework (ADF). Might not seem like much to some, but this should make development much easier because we’ll have one framework for all ESRI server products. Coupled with IDE integration with .NET and Java, developing applications should be much quicker and easier as we won’t have to get down in the weeds programming toolbars anymore and focus on the actual application. I’m going to be counting the days until I can get my hands on ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS 9.2 Betas.

  3. Cartography in ArcMap. In the past you could either have it one of two ways. A map in dynamic map in GIS or a cartographic map in Adobe Illustrator. The new cartographic representation in 9.2 will allow you to perform “Illustrator” enhancements right in ArcMap. The power of these cartographic representations really needs to be seen to appreciated.

  4. Workflows, workflows, workflows. Over and over again in almost every technical workshop and even on the ESRI Showcase floor we heard about workflows. This has always been a big deal for me as I’ve had to manage more and more people. ESRI has listened to users and what their workflows are and made changes to the software in 9.2 to make our lives easier. A simple example would be the cartography enhancements above. Being able to leave everything in Geodatabases should save much time and not require trips between ArcMap and Illustrator anymore.

  5. Changes to ArcSDE. I never had enough time to learn more about the specifics of the changes at 9.2 to SDE, but we will have more options rather than just the current enterprise SDE that we have at 9.1. I’m unsure of what this will mean to users, but a free SDE (I assume this is the new file Geodatabase?) should help people better understand Geodatabases and I suspect these will be adopted more readily than the Personal Geodatabase that is currently so limited.

  6. ArcExplorer is back. Both the web based ArcExplorer (built with DHTML) and the windows version looked great. All that wonderful AJAX that makes Google Maps so easy to use is now in ESRI’s web client. In fact the demos I saw blew anything that Google or MSN has with their maps. I hope the long lead time to 9.2 won’t allow the competition to catch up. Many thought this was a reaction to Google or MSN and I don’t think that was the case. While I’m sure ArcExplorer has been influenced by Google Maps and Earth, there is no way even ESRI could have gotten the program I saw running as well as it did. There might have been smoke and mirrors to make it run better than it did, but even though couldn’t hide a mock-up and what I saw wasn’t.

  7. Sun has set on the UC? I guess the days of Sun, Oracle, Informix and Bentley having huge booths are over. The big booths these days are for GPS and Satellite Imagery companies. IBM and HP were there in force and Dell was back again after a little absence.

  8. ESRI Image Server If you’ve ever had to deal with rasters in ArcSDE you’ll know why this announcement is so important. I have no clue about price, but I can’t imagine it costing too much as you can already do this for “free” with UMN Mapserver. RDBMS are great, but not for storing images and finally ESRI has a solution to handle them.

  9. The Usability Release ArcGIS 9.2 is going to be one of those great ESRI software releases. Rather than cram tons of new features into ArcGIS, they are focusing on usability and bug fixes. This should make 9.2 work really well for all users. Going off what I saw, you’ll want to make sure you maintenance is up to date so you’ll get the 9.2 upgrade. ArcGIS 9.2 is too good to miss out on. Until then look for that service pack in the fall for 9.1!

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