Q&A: Esri's Jack Dangermond on cloud, big data, and Apple-Google map wars


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GIS pioneer discusses the importance of mobile and cloud, the role of GIS in organizations, big data, and consumer vs. enterprise mapping

GIS pioneer Jack Dangermond founded Esri in 1969 and has steered the company since the mainframe era. Today's announcement of ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions marks what he calls Esri's evolution into the era of cloud and mobile computing. He talked about the importance of mobile and cloud, the role of GIS in organizations, big data, and consumer vs. enterprise mapping.

Tell me a little about today's announcement.

This is rather transforming. When we started the company, we were on mainframes, we had a few dozen customers. When we went to minis, we went to a few thousand customers. When we went to Unix workstations, it went up an order of magnitude in use. When we went to PCs, we achieved a million-user community. With each of those steps, it was usability, it was a new architecture, it was cheaper. In our view this is another evolutionary step.

But, frankly, this new platform we see as not just one order of magnitude but multiple orders of magnitude of growth for our technology. We've had this technology in beta for about six months and we're getting very, very, very positive feedback on it.

In the open cloud version of it, we call that ArcGIS Online. It is a complete SaaS implementation and it is being offered with a new business model. Esri, like Microsoft and Oracle, has traditionally been a software company. This new platform introduces a subscription model for the use of our SaaS offering, ArcGIS online. So it's a shift for us, both in the technology pattern but also in the business pattern.

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