Peter Batty moderated an interesting panel at the GITA conference yesterday on, “Mashups-Consumer Toy or Enterprise Tool?” When it came to the question of “Why are you investing all of this money in platforms?,” the response was quite humorous. Microsoft’s Bill Gail replied, “to beat Google.” Google’s Bryan Atwood replied, “out of the goodness of our hearts.”
All kidding aside, it’s all about the $60Billion USD local search market, and altruism certainly doesn’t factor into the equation. The “free to users” model only works by offloading costs to advertisers, and the “build it and they will come” bet that both companies have made has yet to play out in terms of ad revenue.
The panel refreshingly included both the corporate perspective as well as those that are working to extend these platforms for their own use. Kirk Fusella with Florida Power and Light showed how his organization has extended their GIS data onto the Google Earth platform to communicate and answer business questions. Chad Swenka with iFactor detailed how his company uses the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform to build solutions for customers.
Microsoft’s position is that the word mashups is tainted by connotation of “consumer toy.” But they do acknowledge that the advent of mashups have clearly shown that enterprise applications don’t need to be complex to be useful, and that they don’t need to be hidden and controlled by IT.
Google highlighted the simplicity of adding mapping to a website, with only two lines of Java code needed to integrate a map. Google also discussed the revolution that we’ll see with user-generated mapping content.
Both vendors indicate that their platforms are complementary to GIS, and that they see GIS vendors benefiting from the exposure. Understandably, there remain concerns in the community about a lack of metadata in the tools that would resolve data validity issues of accuracy and currency.