ESRI has published a lengthy pre-conference Q&A document on the user conference blog, which several people have commented on. One answer talked about results from their customer survey, and I thought this highlighted some interesting industry trends.
They said that 45% of customers have asked for tight integration with Google Earth and nearly 47% have asked for support for interoperability - so overall, 92% of ESRI customers are looking for integration with Google Earth (assuming that these two response categories were mutually exclusive, which seems to be the case from the context). For Virtual Earth the numbers were a little lower, 26% and 43%, so 69% in total. This is just reconfirmation of the trend we are all aware of that "serious" GIS users are interested in using Google and Microsoft as a means to distribute their data - but it's interesting to see hard numbers, and 92% is a resounding endorsement for Google. It's also interesting that the vote for Google is quite a bit higher than Microsoft. I think that in the consumer world and the blogosphere, Google has pretty clearly had a higher geospatial profile, but among "corporate" GIS users I have talked to, many have had a bit more of a leaning towards Microsoft, if only because their organizations tend to be doing business with Microsoft already. This survey goes against the subjective impression I had formed on that particular point (admittedly from a small sample size).
The other point that was interesting was that 80% of customers want ESRI to support or tightly integrate their technology with the upcoming Microsoft SQL Server spatial extension - this is a very high number, especially given that Oracle probably still has around 50% of the database market share (48.6% in 2005, according to Gartner). These two numbers don't directly correspond in that the ESRI number is based on number of customers, so is likely to more strongly reflect the interests of smaller organizations (assuming that there are a large number of small organizations responding), whereas the Gartner number is based on revenue so probably more influenced by large organizations. But nevertheless, a very strong statement about the level of interest in Microsoft SQL Server Spatial.
There is a separate statement that less than 19% of customers have asked for tight integration with Oracle Spatial - but unfortunately no comment on what percentage want "support" for Oracle Spatial (which is currently provided via what was ArcSDE, now part of ArcGIS Server), so no direct information on relative levels of interest in Oracle versus SQL Server. I have been thinking for a little while that Oracle Spatial is at an interesting juncture in terms of its position in the market, but I'll save my thoughts on that for a future post :) !