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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

What happens now: Google Enterprise products no longer supported by Google

 
March 5th, 2015 by Susan Smith

What has been an un-announcement in the geospatial industry is the fact that Google Maps Engine and Google Earth Enterprise are to be discontinued by Google. It’s possible that Google didn’t send out a press release about this because their customers, who are mainly consumers, may mistake the message to mean that Google Maps and Google Earth will be discontinued by Google, which is absolutely not the case.

The Esri/Google architecture in the post Google Earth Enterprise World

The Esri/Google architecture in the post Google Earth Enterprise World

Google Maps Engine and Google Earth Enterprise are those types of engines used by developers and enterprise customers. In the wake of this announcement or lack of one, Google and Esri are now working together to provide replacement software and training to Google’s enterprise customers and partners.

“Google and Esri are working closely together to provide replacement software and training to all of Google’s enterprise customers and partners that have implemented Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine technology. Esri will be providing the new 10.3 version of ArcGIS for Server and related client/app technology to all Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers and partners”

  — Answer to Common Question #1 on the Esri’s Google Relationship landing page

“With ArcGIS 10.3, Esri released three powerful visualization technologies that replicate and extend Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine. They include:

  1. 3D and Globe Services (in ArcGIS for Server)
  2. The ArcGIS Pro app for 2D and 3D visualization
  3. ArcGIS Web Scene Viewer, a browser-based 3D viewer (in ArcGIS Online)

Later this year, Esri will extend its 3D capabilities to native devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone).” – Answer to Question #3 on the Esri’s Google Relationship landing page

Other companies have also jumped in to offer their services for helping with the anticipated glut of Google Maps customers. One, CartoDB, was the first one to make a bid for the customers on its website. Another company, Boundless, boundlessgeo.com emerged a week later with an offer for the customers they believe are left in the lurch by the Google announcement.

Not everyone thinks there is a wealth of Google enterprise customers out there who are puzzled about what to do now. Brian Timoney asks the question, “Do people use this product for business?” He wonders how many who purchased the Google license remember why they bought it.

“I think it did better with the DOD and realtors; it wasn’t what GIS people used,” said James Fee.

Needless to say, Timoney said that “Google Earth was the most successful standalone interface we’ve seen in the map industry insofar as the initiative users took to use it. It hasn’t been improved in 8 years. The experience was so immersive.”

According to Dale Lutz, of Safe Software, many customers will be left to hire consultants to figure out the quagmire left behind by the discontinuance of the Google products. “The on-premises copy of both data and server software, together with a specially tuned Google Earth client, currently provides a rich behind-the-firewall option for many customers.  These clients would appear to have the fewest options in a potential post-GEE world, so Esri’s offer of similar ArcGIS based software together with a rich dataset is very good news indeed.”

Esri offers free (after one year, maintenance will be added) replacement software for those companies who have invested in building their applications on top of Google Earth Enterprise or Google Maps Engine. Hopefully those organizations can make the necessary changes within that time frame.

Nobody seems to know exactly why Google decided to discontinue the two products. Simony suggests that Google’s acquisition of Skybox Imaging might be an indicator that they might have a different direction for satellite imagery. It also may herald Google’s exit from the geospatial market.

But the picture may be more complex than that. According to an article in The New York Times, initially, Skybox will help improve Google’s dominant mapping service. But over time, the five-year-old start-up and its ability to launch relatively cheap satellites could aid a bigger Google goal: expanding its Internet service offerings.

The tech titan is already exploring using other novel methods — including balloons and drones — to provide online access, especially to people in sparsely populated locations.

“Their satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery,” a representative for Google said in a statement. “Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.”

Esri has the functionality of Google Earth Enterprise or Google Maps Engine, but their functionality is not easy to use. The Google Enterprise products are easy to use but were expensive. The products provide a way to remanage images, yet as Simony says, outside the defense industry, how many customers are going to seek out aerial imagery?

Particularly with the direction imagery is taking these days, with the ability to now do surveys by taking video with an iPhone. This is opposed to hiring an expensive engineering firm to conduct a two-week, expensive survey.

Google’s reason for investing in lower cost satellite imaging to improve Internet access and disaster relief makes some sense. Plus, satellite imagery provides a specific type of view that cannot be gained from a smartphone or street level and is particularly valuable for disaster relief and providing images of areas that are difficult to access from the ground.

According to Lutz, “Combined with Google’s announcement that Google Earth Pro is now free (for years the licensing arrangement of Google Earth Free Edition prevented many businesses from using it without the Pro upgrade), Esri’s inclusion of Google Earth in its architecture suggests a streamlined migration path for the GEE customers who have Internet access beyond their firewall. And independent of that, Esri’s release earlier this year of powerful 3D capabilities in the ArcGIS Pro App provides another compelling client option.”

Some of the options for those who are looking to continue to use Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine, are as follows: ArcGIS Online, CartoDB, FME, Google Cloud Platform, iSpatial, and MapBox.

6 Google Maps Engine Alternatives

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Categories: 3D designs, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, asset management, image-delivery software, photogrammetry, Planet Labs, RapidEye, remote sensing, resilient cities, Safe Software, satellite imagery, Skybox Imaging, smartphones, spatial data, UAV, utilities

One Response to “What happens now: Google Enterprise products no longer supported by Google”

  1. Glenn Stowe says:

    Good summary of the situation. I’ve been fielding questions from non-industry friends about that announcement and confusion between Maps and Engine.

    However I noticed that there were no suggestions for alternatives to Google Enterprise, aside from the ESRI migration. Which, as acknowledged in the article is difficult to use and expensive. There is a link to 6 alternatives for Maps Engine customers, but the article leaves the impression that there is little choice for imagery management. I felt the need to correct this impression. My company (CubeWerx) is well positioned to serve the needs of Google Enterprise customers who are looking for a solution to managing and publishing large volumes of imagery. Our latest offering, OpenImageMap, is easier to use than ESRI or Google’s, far (far) cheaper, requires less intensive resources and offers more open service endpoints. I realize this sounds like bit of a heavy a marketing post, but we truly have something special here, and it’s a shame that Google is railroading its customers towards ESRI when this could be a great opportunity for smaller, more dynamic companies to showcase their technology.

    I’d encourage anyone with imagery management and publishing requirements to take a serious look at the product: http://www.cubewerx.com/solutions/openimagemap/

    And our company: http://www.cubewerx.com/

    On another point, I can understand the New York Times making this mistake, but I was surprised to see a statement like this repeated in a major trade blog: “outside the defense industry, how many customers are going to seek out aerial imagery?”

    Most readers of this blog will be aware that aerial imagery is collected and used by hundreds of organizations of all types, including municipal, state and federal government, aviation authorities, natural resource management, environmental organizations, oil and gas companies, mining companies, real estate, .. well, the list goes on … These people need current data, and often require better resolution than can be acquired through Google Maps etc. If anything, what we have seen in the last few years is a large escalation in both the acquisition and the use of aerial imagery. The tools to manage this data have been sorely lacking though. Which is where we’re hoping to help out.

    Sincerely,
    Glenn Stowe,
    Product Manager
    CubeWerx

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