Microsoft joins 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.

But Microsoft's commitment to OGC, he adds, is also forward-looking. 'We consider this to be a fluid and dynamic area,' Katibah said. 'There's a significant amount of additional work to be done in the standards arena as we go forward.'

OGC Chairman and chief executive officer David Schell told GCN 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.

'The center of gravity of the market is now shifting,' Schell said. '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.'

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.

'The greatest implication of Microsoft coming into OGC is that Microsoft is one of the few companies that you can really say has ubiquitous presence,' Schell said. 'That will provide the very stabilizing and constructive influence within the consortium, and the consortium's allies are going to be much more confident that a responsible policy and set of best practices will result from the process. That's terribly important for government [clients] as well as for major corporations.'

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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