Takeaways from the 2005 ESRI User Conference

By Adena Schutzberg

1) The Geodatabase is maturing.The announcement of a new file-based geodatabase and enhancements to the personal geodatabase and a workgroup version indicate this smart storage format is gaining popularity.Moreover, its use, and the demand for sharing data in this form, are both growing.This should be an indication to many users that coverages are quickly becoming a legacy format.

2) The single code base is a reality. The years of several different development streams at ESRI are long gone.Tying the desktop, server and client tools to a single core set of objects, while difficult, is reality within ESRI.I spoke with third party developers who found it "easy" to port their ArcEngine based apps to ArcGIS Server.The core of the new ArcExplorer (for different platforms) will also share code.

3) The desktop is no longer the center of universe. While ArcGIS is still important, its role within organizations is changing.More of the work that "doesn't need the power" is being pushed out to ArcIMS apps, ArcGIS Server and ArcPad apps.It's my sense that while the number of ArcGIS seats is growing, the number of products surrounding those seats in the enterprise is growing faster.

4) The ESRI User Conference is like summer camp.One of the reasons kids enjoy summer camp is that year after year, they meet the same kids (more or less) and do many of the same activities.The User Conference has that feel, too.While ESRI tweaked the opening session on Monday, enough of the core things remained the same, so that it felt "homey and familiar" to those who have attended for years.

5) It's time to unite consumer and "professional" Web GIS. ESRI's choice to partner with consumer/education-focused National Geographic is part of that move.So is Geospatial One-Stop's partnering with National Geographic. It's not clear where these connections will take either set of technologies, but it's exciting to see them linked.

6) At 25, ESRI is "more professional." Several attendees used that term to describe the opening session, and I'd have to agree with the description.I'd also add that ESRI's workflows and interactions with users are stepping up, too.From EDN, to the new procedure for entering bugs (only Tech Support does that now, not "everyone"), to enhanced customer service tools, ESRI is focusing on better processes to create better product and better serve its users.

7) ESRI is slowing down.Instead of focusing a great deal in the plenary on the next set of feature functions, ESRI concentrated on workflows and how these enhancements would be used in context.On the "show floor" at the ESRI "islands" the focus was 100% on the version of ArcGIS users had in their hands, 9.1.For information about 9.2, users were directed to a whole series of detailed "Road Ahead" sessions.The sessions were well attended, based on my experience sitting on the floor in the back, but created a reality check, keeping today in focus and tomorrow in perspective.

8) The show floor had some new faces.Some new attendees (at least that I don't recall from years past) included Nextel and as well as a content management company, Hyland Software.The latter was showing off its OnBase product.Missing were Bentley and Oracle.

9) Visualization rules.From the main stage presentation to the show floor, visualization is coming into its own.The Northrop Grumman/Applied Minds terrain table is a perfect example.But so were the "sand castles" of Z Corp, the beautiful globes from Worldfx and the models company offer museum quality 3D art.Mapping is going online, but we humans still enjoy and learn from looking at, and touching, real objects.

10) Single Word Summary: Services.I'm the first to admit that ESRI has been speaking about services for some time (as have other IT areas).But now it seems more real.ArcGIS Server will allow anyone to build and offer up their own service (be it for internal, public or commercial
use).ArcIMS is becoming easier to use at 9.2, in part, I'd offer to allow those services to be more easily created and shared.ESRI is offering more and more services, including some free ones.(Of course, services don't live in a vacuum, they need data and clients, too.)

Published Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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