Getting on the Geo Train · Amr Eldib 

Getting on the Geo Train

So, looks like Acrobat 9 is getting map support. But instead of talking about what is it exactly what Acrobat 9 is supporting (which you find here), I’m gonna focus on with the question "why". Acrobat has no relation with GIS or GeoWeb, but it seems like Geo info is the next big thing (or at least one of them) where everyone wants to get a part of it (of course, not as big as advertisement). Google Earth (currently accessible at any browser near you), Live maps (with the amazing bird’s eye functionality), and yahoo maps are on the geo train for a while now as GIS (or to be more specific geo-info) is being brought to the masses by car navigation devices, and cell phone embedded GPSs.

But even "Why" is not the key question here, "Who" is. Geo-enabled apps are being brought to the masses by companies that had close to no existence in the GIS market, 3 or 4 years ago. ESRI, ERDAS, Intergraph and other GIS software vendors who has been in this business for years if not decades, are not the ones who is bringing GIS to the masses. On the contrary, these companies still have no significant - or even absolutely no - contribution to GeoWeb.

So, instead of simplifying GIS in a way that would make the average Joe be able to explode its full potential. The regular databases and information systems are being extended to store X and Y coordinates to represent locations on a map. This extending is a big step, but it only limits the functionalities to answering the questions of how far, how large, and which is closer.

Of course, it’s up to the GIS software vendors not to bring GIS to the masses. It could be their idea to keep low profile and enjoy their share of the GIS market without a competition with the big guys (GIS market was estimated in 2004 to be 2.2B$, where software represent 64%). A friend of mine who works for a GIS software vendor told about how they’re avoiding their software in comparison with Google Earth to avoid explaining why their software is that expensive. This kind of behavior is what is keeping the GIS genie in the bottle, and it will go on until the attitude changes (I don’t see why) or another software vendor gets in the market and maybe change the rules a bit.

Until then, we’re just watching more people getting on the geo train.


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