Google, ESRI and FUD

Link – ESRI and Google and major uphill battle Update – Link seems to be back up now

I usually try and not use FUD in my posts because I think the term has been overused, but in this case I think it is appropriate. Berlin Brown seems to have gone off the deep end in regards to ESRI and the “threat” of Google to their business.

While, there is no doubt that any serious GIS user would consider google maps, not even really GIS. But, google has done things that ESRI and other companies haven’t done. They are agile about their approach. They started with just the street mapping, pre-rendered images and then moved on to satellite imagery.

Of course one would have to ignore the plain fact that ESRI has been producing web mapping applications for probably longer than Google has been a company. Actually the problem has been ESRI hasn’t pushed their web services well enough to the point even GIS professionals didn’t know much about it. People fail to realize that Google Maps is just Beta and to try and build a application around a Beta map service is just asking for trouble (well actually you can’t make money off of your Google Maps applications so that isn’t a fair comparison, ArcWeb Services is really the only solution).

GIS is more than just the image data. You have to worry about the geodatabase schema, uploading data, editing features, on and on.

Google hasn’t touched this yet, but already they have momentum, so it might be possible.

Actually this is the part that Google might never figure out. While at Where 2.0, when Jack Dangermond talked about this, all the Google Maps folks weren’t paying attention. Basically they don’t care or don’t understand this. Google is all about selling ads, not providing services. Anything they do is driven by the need to place ads on the web page. Can you imagine a company such as HP using Google Maps to show locations where to buy their products and have Dell Computer ads show up? Of course that is why this product will never move much beyond either Beta (which means that they can change the product at any time without giving warning to programmers) or it will only be used by “Google Maps Hackers” who just want to place points on a map.

But, here is where ESRI has failed. One: they have not capture the WEB. Two: they are still operating like a big, bad company. High prices, shady reps, no real value, not agile. Eventually, users are going to go from ESRI to Google. Google is not GIS, but if given enough pressure, they could do it. Already, google has mapped the world with limited resources. Do you really think that they can’t help you create a magical GIS shop.

I don’t think ESRI really cares too much about competing with the Yahoo! Maps and Mapquests of the world. They specialize in providing services that others can use for their maps. They haven’t given up on the web, they aren’t in the same consumer space as Google is. Now to call ESRI a big bad company is a little unfair. I’d love to see some backup to support this. I have never had any problem with ESRI consumer reps or support. Heck the fact that you can actually call ESRI over their web mapping tools proves my point about Google. If I need help I’m supposed to post in Google Groups? Not likely! We all know Google Earth is a nice application, but it isn’t even 1/100th of the power of ArcView let alone BusinessMAP. Oh and Google hasn’t mapped the world at all, they have just bought mapping from other companies who all probably use ESRI software to create these maps. Heck even Keyhole was a huge (and probably still is) ESRI user. The “Professional GIS Software” market is so small, I can’t imagine Google wanting to jump into that market and even if they did, how would they provide ads to the desktop? I can’t imagine having to deal with Google Ads in my applications.

Bye, bye ESRI, it has been fun

I’m curious, what products do you expect to move to? Probably none of them will be Google. If you need to perform GIS analysis, there are tons of open source products out there that are wonderful, but none have the Google name on them.

I will even help you guys out. You need GIS momentum. Drop the 1million dollar price tag for software. Opensource some of your products(not all). Market. Embrace the web.

Wow, with an ending like that, how can we seriously take the rest of the post? Sure one could spend a million dollars on ESRI software, but you’d need to purchase a whole lot of product to get there (about 667 copies of ArcView 9.1 would do it). While I do think ESRI should open source Avenue and Map Objects (when they “kill” it), but why should they open the rest? There are tons of great open source software already available if that is the route you want to take. Should ESRI mass market GIS software? I’m not too sure about that, consumers love Google Earth, but why do they love it? Not because they can perform GIS analysis on it, but because they can see pictures of where they lived as a child. You can’t build a business model around that. And there are few companies that have embraced the web as well as ESRI has. They have been producing web based GIS solutions since pretty much day one of the world wide web. Could they market better? I sure think they could, but that doesn’t mean they don’t understand their place in the GIS world.

Berlin seems to have bought into the Google hype, but he isn’t looking at what Google is offering. Sure visualizing your data is wonderful, but ESRI is much more than eye candy mapping.

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