Disappearance of GIS?
Vector1 asks if GIS is going to disappear. Disappear is too strong of a word – I think subsumption is more likely.
Internal Combustion Engine Subsumption
Look at what happened to engines. A hundred years ago they were the hot new technology – both internal combustion as well as electric. In those days you had to be intimately familiar with the physics of combustion to operate a motor vehicle. Now I rarely open the hood of my car. So in a sense engines have disappeared, but really they were subsumed by the automobile. What remains is a higher level object – the car – with only a few terms (like ignition) here and there hinting at what lay underneath.
By 1918, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog offered a 5-pound Home Motor, suitable for a variety of applications … there was a Beater Attachment (“whips cream and beats eggs when used in connection with the Home Motor”), a Fan Attachment (“includes fan and guard, which can be quickly attached to Home Motor”), a Churn and Mixer Attachment (“for which you will find many uses”), Buffer and Grinder Attachments (“will be found very useful in many ways around the home”), and, last but not least, a Vibrator Attachment (“includes three applicators and handle”)
Electric Engine Subsumption
Instead of being subsumed by single technology – like the automobile – I think GIS will be subsumed by many technologies. This is what happened to the electric engine. As this Wired article points out, Sears originally sold general purpose electric engines for consumers who would attach it to different applicances. That didn’t work out too well. I believe impedance matching is critical to good engine design. Since the impedance imposed by inertia and friction on an auto varies little from on auto to another, standardization and economies of scale allowed that industry to flourish. On the other hand, the appliances Sears was targeting had a comparatively wider range of impedances. The result has been a much greater variety in the electric engine gene pool. Even though the electric motor industry never had a city – much less a basketball team – named after it, it seems to be in better shape than the internal combustion engine industry.
ArcGIS Engine Subsumption
The range of impedances around which Geospatial engines must be designed is rapidly growing. Unfortunately, the licensing model for ArcGIS Engine seems like it was written in Detroit. Finer grained licensing is needed. For example, maybe the AxMapControl is too heavy (all that COM baggage) for a particular use case. I’d like to write my own multithreaded WPF based mapcontrol, maybe leveraging DeepZoom (assuming I can get my head around SilverLight). My licensing costs should reflect the amount of ArcObjects I use. As someone who makes a living building apps from ArcObjects, I don’t want to end up in the same boat as the United Auto Workers.