To be able to take ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, WMS, ArcWeb Services and other types of GIS datasets and display them all in one program really speaks volumes of what ESRI is trying to accomplish here. ArcGIS Explorer seems to be the product that Google Earth should have been.
It seems really snide to say "should have been". Google Earth isn't just a client- they're serving up an unprecedent quantity of imagery, elevation, and vector data at amazing speeds to a huge number of users. That really changed the game for all of the people that don't have ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, WMS, etc services that cover whole world available to them. GIS isn't much fun without good data, and Google Earth has exposed a lot of people to data that they didn't even know existed.
By James's definition of "should have been", Google Earth should have been the viewer for ESRI data formats...maybe if Keyhole had been looking to get bought by someone else. In reality, the server side of Google Earth changed the game in terms of scaling 3D imagery services and the client changed the way most people who used it thought about GIS user interfaces (apparently to include ESRI). Hacking across data formats is a nice side business for system integrators, not really the primary focus for most innovative product companies [reference ESRI support for OGC standards].
Here's one big thing missing from ArcGIS Explorer so far- the ability to create data. A community sprung up around Keyhole and then Google Earth in large part due to the ease of creating data and sharing with it others. Now, you probably wouldn't use this kind of tool to produce datasets that you would sell, but it handles the long tail of applications for the occaisonal GIS user.
Friday, December 02, 2005