ArcGIS Explorer vs. Google Earth

I’ve seen quite a few people comparing AGX to GE and I think many are missing the point. ESRI has been saying that they view the mission of AGX as quite different as that of Google Earth or Virtual Earth 3D. From the ArcGIS Explorer “homepage”:

ArcGIS Explorer is a lightweight desktop client for ArcGIS Server. It can be used to access, integrate, and utilize GIS services, geographic content, and other Web services. ArcGIS Explorer can also be used with a variety of other GIS services such as those published using ArcIMS, ArcWeb Services, Web Map Services (WMS), and other Web services. In addition, ArcGIS Explorer can use local data such as shapefiles, file geodatabases, KML, JPEG 2000, GeoTIFF, MrSID, IMG, and other image formats.

I know most of you realize this, but lets keep that all in perspective when we start worrying about if ESRI can find 10 Downing Street. Yes, AGX is a 3D Globe. Yes it looks and acts like Google Earth. Yes SOME people at ESRI have been using the words “Google Earth Killer” in the past. That doesn’t change AGX’s mission as a GIS browser. If you want 10 Downing Street in AGX, give the Ordnance Survey a call or just bug this man to offer up their datasets as a 3D Globe.

ESRI has given GIS Professionals the tools to create their own 3D globes and serve them up to clients. We’ve been asking for these for years so now it is time to put up or shut up. ArcGIS Explorer is only as good as the datasets inside and ESRI has some starter services for us to use, but they are just starting points. Lets not lose perspective here that AGX has been out in the public for 2 or 3 days, while Google Earth has been out for years now. Sure this is a “Final Release”, but in reality it is a beta. So in that frame of mind, test it with ArcIMS, ArcGIS Server, WMS Services, KML, Shapefiles, file geodatabases, JPEG 2000, GeoTIFF, MrSID, IMG and other formats it supports. Let ESRI know in their forums what is working and what isn’t working. Let them know that you want to see ArcSDE and Personal Geodatabase support if that is important to you.

I was joking around with the Matterhorn example because Stefan asked about it, but my point in that post was someone should offer up a ArcGIS Server service that could fix the Matterhorn very easy and that is the spirit of ArcGIS Explorer. It has many faults right now, don’t get me wrong. But lets work at getting it right as a GIS browser and leave the sightseeing to GE and VE.

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