GIS Desktop is Becoming GIS Workstation Again

I read Tobin Bradley’s post this morning on the hardware requirements of ArcGIS 10:

The laptop I’m typing this on, my only work machine, is a C2D 2.0 GHz. I don’t meet the minimumrequirements for ArcGIS 10. And of course minimum requirements in software vendor parlance is a delicate balance between the software engineers, who would be horrified if you tried to run their software at the minimums, and the sales folks, who really want to say the software will run just dandy on a Speak n Spell.

So this got me thinking as well. One of the test machines I run is a Dell Inspiron Desktop which I’ve discovered can’t run ArcGIS Explorer at all. Sure it has an integrated video card, but that is the point. It mimics what I believe is a standard work computer in both the private and public sectors. Now I should say it can run ArcGIS 10 because unlike ArcGIS Explorer, 10 doesn’t require a heavy video card to run.

Now this is interesting because until the mid to late 90s, GIS ran mostly on Workstations (usually running Solaris). These machines were beefy, speed demons and not something you’d see on every desk in the office. Since ArcView 2.x, we’ve seen an effort to get GIS running on the desktop. Heck ArcView/Info 8 was labeled ArcGIS Desktop. Now don’t get me wrong, that Dell desktop on my desk is 64-bit, dual core (no quad core), 4GB of RAM and a relatively fast hard drive. It runs ArcGIS 10 pretty darn well. ESRI says a 512MB video card is recommended for any 3D so this means that most laptops aren’t going to make the cut.

Of course this isn’t so bad, putting ArcView on everyone’s desk isn’t a good idea any more than putting AutoCAD on them. Users need ways to visualize GIS analysis and with products such as ESRI’s Business Analysis Online, there is zero reason to have them run GIS apps. Heck running viewshed analysis on the server in a web app is probably best for everyone.

Letting GIS Desktop applications become GIS Workstation applications is best for all. The analysts get the tools they need to create content and the end users can consume that content in lightweight web or mobile applications. Seems like the best of both worlds to me!

ArcGIS Desktop minimum requirements has me dazed and confused!