GIS MONITOR, Oct 12, 2000

-Are Meadlock and Bartz the Worst CEOs?
-A Visit to Autodesk's iDesign Online
-News on Spatial News and
-More Mapping of the Web
-What is Going on at MapInfo?
-Week in Review


A recent online article would have you believe that Jim Meadlock of Intergraph and Carol Bartz of Autodesk are not fit to lead their companies. Citing losing quarters, low share prices and damaging lawsuits, Computer Reseller News list Bartz and Meadlock as "The Worst Execs." While investors can hardly be pleased with the stock performance, we should look at what these leaders have done that others can learn from.

Jim Meadlock has shown us that hardware and software were once closer together and a company could make a living - a good living - producing both. No one in CAD or GIS does both hardware and software anymore. In other arenas, notably business applications, companies such as IBM still do both. In the early days you needed special hardware for CAD or GIS and it made sense to be a "full service" vendor. These days, any good PC can run AutoCAD or ArcView.

In the GIS arena Intergraph worked long and hard to grow out of CAD-based GIS. They knew that MicroStation added quite a lot of overhead (both cost and development labor) to their solutions. Bentley's development of Microstation introduced compatibility issues with each new release. To Intergraph's credit, GeoMedia has become a strong product, steadily growing in power and supported formats. The company has done well to look forward by integrating with the old (MGE, FRAMME) while at the same time growing the new.

Carol Bartz started out okay. After the dismal R13, she made sure R14 was a winner. One could argue that R14 was too good since many satisfied customers did not even feel a need to upgrade to AutoCAD 2000. Buying Discreet was wise. On the GIS side, the inexpensive Vision* was initially a steal but eventually a money pit. Then came the Internet. Internet extensions, PointA, AutoCAD Today these tools were too little, too late. Unlike others, such as Microsoft, and even Bentley, Autodesk waited too long to develop Internet tools. Buzzsaw also arrived on the scene late, after others had similar products on the market. Innovation was not coming from Autodesk.

And what of Actrix? The diagramming product was just a knee-jerk reaction to Visio, who had tried to steal Autodesk's lunch by introducing a CAD product (IntelliCAD). But Actrix has not shaken Visio's domination of the market The limited innovation in Actrix and the fact that most CAD users have little need for a diagramming tool combine to make Actrix's future not too bright.

To regain Autodesk's luster, Carol Bartz will need to provide a clear vision and prove to the world that Autodesk can again innovate. Whereas Meadlock laid out a plan and made some hard but clear choices, Autodesk employees and users are more confused than ever about the direction in which the company is heading.


Autodesk's 65 online seminars billed as iDesign Online have two things going for them: you don't actually have to register to attend and you can hear the audio via your computer.

The seminars are run through PlaceWare's web conferencing; a Java app is downloaded to your browser. You are seated as a yellow dot in a big auditorium. The auditorium did not fill for the session I attended, Maps and Drawings Go Mobile! held Oct 11, but I estimate 400 dots visited. Basically, we saw 51 slides and listened to the speaker. The technology worked quite well (even over dialup connection) though the few videos were a bit garbled both in audio and video.

I wish I could be more positive. At the beginning the audience was invited to respond to some multiple choice questions about their experience level, their industry, and so on. 78% of us dots had less than 5 years of GIS experience. We waited while Autodesk was introduced as a GIS company, learned of its vision, and its $100M of revenue. We learned about the 150,000 people who use AutoCAD Map and the 17,000 who use enterprise solutions. We learned about each Autodesk GIS product and about where the speaker had traveled lately. Then, about 45 minutes into the one-hour broadcast, we touched on things mobile, Autodesk OnSite, very briefly.

Dots began to leave. There were no questions via phone (you could call on an 800 number) but several were sent via the PlaceWare interface. The speaker addressed five non-controversial ones of the 14 or so I saw listed in the queue. All in all, you'll learn more reading up on mobile mapping elsewhere.


A visit to SpatialNews this week revealed their new look! I am especially pleased that it is well woven into the rest of the GeoComm properties including GISDataDepot and their specialty channels such as wireless.

There must be something in the air in October! If you've visited in the last few months, you would have found an array of resources, but few paths through them. For that reason I want to highlight's new site. With tabs for each of its publications, and a separate one for resources, the way through is far clearer. Well done!

Also, we were pleased to have the TenLinks Map/GIS Directory chosen by SpatialNews as the site of the week. The listing notes, "TenLinks does an excellent job of providing '10 links' for a large number of GIS categories."


In the past two weeks we've met two companies who are mapping the 'net to assign a geographic location to Web site visitors: Quova and geobytes. Another firm is looking to map the 'net in a different way. LinkGuard provides software that will explore your site and create a map of its "neighborhood" that is inbound, outbound and nearby sites. If you allow this interrogation, you are provided with limited access to the company's complete map.

As their web site puts it: LinkGuard has pioneered a co-operative mode of indexing the Web. This is like trying to produce a map of the world by asking people to submit maps of their neighborhood. LinkGuard then integrates these small portions into one inclusive whole and shares the extended information.

On their site you can sign up for a free analysis of your site's broken links, but I found no way to help participate in this mapping endeavor.


MapInfo holds an important distinction in the GIS arena: with the exception of ESRI, it is pretty much the only other pure play GIS company of any significant size. MapInfo built its reputation on its still strong desktop mapping tools. Now, perhaps more than even ESRI, MapInfo is leaving the desktop for the enterprise.

A look at the MapInfo homepage reflects what is currently on the front burner for the company: Oracle, MapX, Wireless, MapXtreme (their Internet solution), MapInsight (Customer Relationship Management) and Lucent. There is no mention of MapInfo Professional!

Why? MapInfo has been, and continues to follow one of Daniel Burrus' new business rules: render your cash cow obsolete before others do it for you. That rule is #16 of 30 new rules in his 1993 book, Technotrends. Back then, this rule scared me, but with change occurring at today's pace, it seems quite correct. There are already too many desktop GISs most with quite similar functionality. And, price points of $100-$1200 cannot yield significant revenue without huge volume. So, MapInfo three or four years ago started casting for bigger fish: the enterprise.

In keeping with its market focus, MapInfo stuck to telcos and business. The company moved forward with the Web, a well-marketed Oracle partnership, location based services and now wirelesses. They didn't bother fighting too much with ESRI in local government, or Smallworld and Intergraph in utilities. Their focus on data sales, kept them diversified, but did not distract them from moving forward.

I'm not suggesting that MapInfo will drop its desktop product just that it's on the back burner. Don't expect whiz bang new upgrades, but rather more tools to plug the desktop into the enterprise.


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