November 18, 2005 -- If you plotted ESRI's customers on a map with red dots, you'd see big stretches of the world blanketed in scarlet. But some wonder whether the company can hold on to its extensive empire. Founded as a land-use consulting firm in 1969, the company today claims that 300,000 organizations worldwide—including most U.S. federal agencies and 24,000 state and local governments—use its technology to create maps and make decisions about their physical assets. ADVERTISEMENT
ESRI, whose official name is Environmental Systems Research Institute, last year held about 31% of the $1.8 billion market for geographic information systems software, according to IDC, making it the No. 1 player. "They're the big dog in the game," says David Breland, enterprise geographic information systems coordinator for power utility Southern Co., which has used ESRI software since the late 1980s to track and manage maintenance of its transmission and distribution infrastructure.