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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Microsoft Joins the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)

In a move that is bound to have lasting repercussions for geospatial
application developers, Microsoft has formally joined the Open
Geospatial Consortium (OGC), a nonprofit standards organization. The
move underlines Microsoft's commitment to make its geospatial
applications -- including Microsoft Virtual Earth and SQL Server
2008 -- conform to open standards, which will make it easier for
third-party developers to integrate their own applications more
effectively. According to Ed Katibah, Microsoft's spatial program
manager for SQL Server, SQL Server 2008, which introduces spatial data
types and methods, was designed to conform to OGC standards. The new
version of the database, which is expected to be released in the second
quarter of 2008, will undergo testing in the next few weeks to ensure
its conformity. OGC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Schell
said that Microsoft's decision to join OGC represents a major change
in the industry. In its early years, OGC was supported primarily by
developers of geospatial tools for vertical markets, such as ESRI and
Autodesk. The recent addition of Google and now Microsoft represents
a sea change, according to Schell. Schell expects Microsoft's
participation to serve as a stabilizing force. As developers build new
applications they can be assured that, by following OGC standards,
their efforts will not meet with immediate obsolescence as a result
of some major company introducing a new standard that suddenly changes
everything. Schell: "The center of gravity of the market is now shifting;
this really does indicate a significant maturation in the industry. It
indicates a very broad acceptance of geospatial information as part of
infrastructure development. And it also indicates that the dialogue
concerning the harmonization of spatial best practices has reached the
highest level." OGC is an international industry consortium of 346
companies, government agencies and universities participating in a
consensus process to develop publicly available interface specifications.
OpenGIS Specifications support interoperable solutions that "geo-enable"
the Web, wireless and location-based services, and mainstream IT.

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