GIS Monitor May 17, 2001
-An Interview with Blue Marble’s Jeff Cole
-ArcView 8.1: Pricing, Avenue and other Goodies
-Autodesk’s New Releases
Departments: Points of Interest, Week in Review, Back Issues, Advertise,
This issue sponsored by:
AN INTERVIEW WITH BLUE MARBLE’S JEFF COLE
A few weeks ago Blue Marble Geographics launched its BeyondGeo.com
service. The affordable, fully hosted, simple to set up service is aimed
to take the burden off organizations that want interactive maps on their
websites. Jeff Cole, Blue Marble president, offers some insight into how
this new offering will affect Blue Marble and the GIS community. Excerpts
from the interview are included here; the complete text can be found on
the TenLinks’ website.
Q: How will becoming an ASP change Blue Marble, until now, a software and
A: Blue Marble Geographics has been developing and marketing geographic
software tools for nearly 7 years to individuals and organizations who are
making or using maps or building mapping applications. We’ve built a
community of over 120,000 customers in 60 countries -- that demonstrates
that we’ve got the software development and marketing process fairly well
It was clear that growth opportunities existed within the traditional GIS
marketplace. The results of GIS analysis are powerful when a talented
person uses sophisticated tools to answer compelling questions. As an
individual who has used traditional GIS solutions I find it very
disappointing that many, many GIS projects never see the light of day.
As we investigated further, it became clear the opportunities within the
non-traditional GIS marketplace were orders of magnitude larger. We began
by asking a few simple questions. We talked directly with over 100 of our
existing customers who had expressed an interest in an Internet mapping
solution. Through this process we learned what customers were asking for
and how existing solutions met or failed to meet their expectations.
It became clear to us that they weren’t asking for another traditional GIS
Internet map server (IMS) solution. The vast majority of them don’t host
their own web sites – this single fact alone totally rules out a
traditional GIS IMS – you can’t install anything on a web server that you
don’t own. They were absolutely amazed by the cost and complexity of
traditional GIS IMS solutions.
Well, that’s the long answer. The short answer is that we’re faced with a
very, very large opportunity and we’ve built and delivered a world-class
solution that offers what subscribers expect. Quite simply, we view
BeyondGeo.com as a better way to deliver our core technology to customers
who are compelled to offer an interactive map on their web site as part of
Q: What are the main arguments for ASP map hosting vs. in house hosting?
A: When you set up your own server, you are responsible for paying for
hardware, server configuration and administration, backup power, and
bandwidth (a T1 line costs ~$1500/month, a 530Kb DSL connection costs
~$550/month). It’s your responsibility to keep it up and running 24/7/365.
Hosting your own web site doesn’t make any sense for all but the largest
companies and organizations. We view the potential market opportunity as
being much larger.
Q: You mention that the "non-traditional GIS marketplace were orders of
magnitude larger" than traditional ones. Are there any special challenges
working with "non traditional" users?
A: Non-traditional users are totally scared of the word "GIS" - totally
intimidated. People are looking for a "show and tell" solution that works
on top of a map background - not GIS. The biggest challenge we face is
education, getting the word out that publishing an interactive map on a
web site is a totally realistic proposition without a ridiculous
Q: Are there plans for routing and other services down the road?
A: Absolutely, we’ve got the core technology to add geocoding, routing,
and other features as soon as we need to. Customers will tell us what they
Q: What percentage of web mappers really need interactive maps vs static
A: Static image maps are a highly effective way to convey information that
doesn’t change and that can be presented simply. Visit Minor League
Baseball’s homepage and Gorham Savings Bank (Maine) for outstanding examples of web sites that publish static image maps that are highly effective. The locations portrayed on these sites and their database
attributes don’t change often.
I don't have a clue as to the percentage of sites that can use static
images versus interactive maps. What's interesting though is that I would
suspect that many don't think interactive maps are "doable" and take the
static image map approach. Low-cost, simple, realistic solutions may
change that. It's also interesting to note that building and maintaining
static image maps isn't cheap, especially if they're complex.
Q: How should potential users position the BeyondGeo.com offering in
comparison to linking to MapBlast or others?
A: Comparing BeyondGeo.com to MapBlast (and other map portals) is like
comparing apples and oranges.
There are fundamentally two different types of BeyondGeo.com subscribers.
Some subscribers have their own maps and/or databases that they want to
publish as part of a story on their web site. In this segment,
BeyondGeo.com is a realistic extension of their existing GIS investment.
For very little incremental cost these folks can realize tremendous
additional value. I was presenting a paper at a conference recently and I
asked the audience how many GIS projects they had worked on that never
left their desktop. The responses were amazing. One gentleman had 30
Gigabytes of GIS projects on his desktop that only he and his organization
knew existed. Unbelievable!
The second type of subscriber has a database of locations and simply wants
to display it on an informative, interactive map directly within their web
site. MapBlast, MapQuest and other “map portal” sites provide canned maps
of a defined area that can be linked to from within a page. Map portal
maps can’t be customized (you can’t overlay your database on their maps)
or published directly into your site without engineering and a “custom”
business arrangement. Map portals are obviously focused on the big fish
(large retailers, national chains, etc.) that can afford expensive
Q: Is there a particular market BeyondGeo.com is aimed at? Any particular
GIS software user base?
A: We’ve made the map data format issue irrelevant for existing mapping
software users. BeyondGeo.com supports ArcView, MapInfo, and AutoCAD map
file and database formats (as well as MrSID and TIFF images) directly,
without conversion. Any user of these mapping programs can subscribe to
BeyondGeo.com and publish their projects easily at a reasonable cost in
less than a day, without having to invest in software, hardware,
bandwidth, training, support/maintenance, or web development. More and
more traditional GIS software users will realize the absolute absurdity of
traditional GIS IMS solutions as they investigate them over time.
The market opportunity is huge. Literally any organization or business
that has their own maps or databases of locations (real estate listings,
dealers, customers, ski trails and lifts, members, grant recipients,
survey sites, tax parcels, assets, etc) can dramatically enhance their
message by publishing a customized interactive, database-driven map on
their web site.
Full Text of Interview
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ARCVIEW 8.1: PRICING, AVENUE AND OTHER GOODIES
A reader emailed to ask if I’d cover pricing of ArcGIS.
While I don’t feel that I want to take on the responsibility of getting
pricing correct (this is a complex thing even within the US!), I did
receive a mailer from ESRI detailing upgrade pricing for ArcView 8.1 in
the US. ESRI is offering concurrent licensing for ArcView in the Windows
environment. This means that if three licenses are installed on a network
up to three users on the network can run ArcView. If a fourth user tries
to log on, he or she will be asked to wait until a license becomes
available. More and more network managers are looking for this type of
The price of ArcView is going up. Please note that this discussion is
about US pricing only. For years ArcView has been priced at $1,200.
ArcView 1.0 was $500 for those who remember back that far! ArcView 8.1 now
lists at $1,500 for a single user license. That’s on par with GeoMedia and
MapInfo Professional. A concurrent use license is $3,500 – so it basically
costs $2,000 to share a license. In the long run however, this may be more
economical for many organizations.
Paralleling the new purchase price, upgrade prices are also higher than
the typical few hundred dollars. Moving from ArcView 2x or 3x, Windows or
Unix, to AV 8.1 (Win only) is $600. ArcView 8.1 is not available on Unix.
Extension upgrades for Spatial and 3D Analyst are $600 as well. To ESRI’s
credit you can continue to run your 3.x ArcView on the same computer as
your 8.1 ArcView.
And while we are on the subject of ArcView, there has been considerable
discussion on the Net about the move from Avenue at 2.x/3.x to VBA as the
customization language for ArcView 8.1. Many are angry about the change.
Many seem shocked. ESRI began gently suggesting the change was coming some
years ago. Some users listened; some did not.
One user faction wants ESRI (or someone else) to design a translator to
port code from Avenue to VBA. Discussions I’ve had with programmers
suggest that while this is theoretically possible, the resultant code
would need substantial checking – perhaps equivalent to porting the code
Although I sympathize with those who have large investments in Avenue, I
feel they need to be realistic. Technology changes.
LizardTech put ESRI in the news this week extolling the inclusion of their
image compression technology in ArcGIS 8.1. The fine print: an engine to
compress images up to 50Mb is included. For larger files, you’ll need to
purchase an upgrade.
AUTODESK’S NEW RELEASES
Ralph Grabowski provided some further details on the upcoming Autodesk
design products in his last issue of Upfront.ezine.
Autodesk Map, along with the other vertical products will be released the
same day as AutoCAD 2002: June 15, 2001.
Grabowski also reports from his discussion with Senior Product Manager
Andy Ramm that 65% of AutoCAD users could use one of Autodesk's vertical
applications. Grabowski points out “that 65% figure could be read as bad
news for Autodesk. It means that there are many AutoCAD users who either:
(1) don't like Autodesk's vertical apps; or (2) don't want to pay more
than they already do.” I’ll suggest that the return on investment may
simply not be high enough for those who only need a “bit” of mapping or
architecture. Users with “small” vertical needs can be quite happy with
AutoCAD or even LT, as they had been before the vertical products came
One might compare Autodesk’s strategy to Bentley’s. After introducing its
vertical products at a premium price, Bentley simply raised the price of
MicroStation to include the choice of one of the “engineering
configurations” with the purchase of a seat of MicroStation/J. The goal
was perhaps to give everyone the opportunity to try out their
geoengineering, building and plant engineering, mechanical engineering and
POINTS OF INTEREST
-I noted the passing of John Sailor several months ago. A scholarship fund
has been established in his name: Wayland H. S. Scholarship Committee,
John Karl Sailor Scholarship Fund, PO Box 36, Wayland, MA 01778. Those
interested can contact the Board of Directors of NEGITA (New England
GITA), with whom John served as an officer.
-Interactive Week noted this week that interest in high powered
programming language Visual Basic is actually falling: in this spring's
Evans Data biannual North American Developer Survey, Visual Basic slipped
from 62 percent in March 2000 to 46 percent in March 2001 among
programmers using multiple languages. Some of the challenge is from
Microsoft itself – the new .net initiative would have given different
meanings to key terms in the language.
Other appealing options for programmers include Sun’s Java, Microsoft's
new Java-like C Sharp (C#) and Borland’s Delphi development platform. This
is not good news for Intergraph, Autodesk and ESRI who now include VBA
(Visual Basic for Applications) in their offerings.
-Fandango is using a type of LBS to allow moviegoers to find theatres and
purchase tickets over the phone. The service determines the caller’s
location (land or cell) and provides information on local theatres and
allows ticket purchases for a 75 cent surcharge.
-Navitime Japan Co., Ltd. and Mitsui & Co., Ltd have introduced yet
another file format for putting maps on cell phones. Introduced at BREW
2001, QUALCOMM’s developer conference, the new vector format is called “V
format” purports to be up to 10x smaller than PNG or GIF raster formats.
Before releasing the viewer the companies hope to integrate it with an
internal compass, so the map automatically puts north at the top and
rotates as the user turns. They also hope to link it up to QUALCOMM’s
-Sierra Maps has put together a CD for installation of GRASS on Mac OS X.
GRASS has been available for Mac from some time, however the installation
has required many settings and collecting various documents from around
the Web. The $25 CD and limited tech support is aimed to alleviate the
-Merrill Lynch has noted a relationship between annual reports (10K SEC
filings) and company performance. 83 percent of companies with the shorter
annual reports (those occupying less than 300 KB of file space)
outperformed the Lynch index. Autodesk’s, by my measure, was 200KB;
MapInfo’s was 394KB.
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