Since James Posted all his screen shots of ArcGIS Explorer Beta 2 it seems like everyone has been getting all excited about whats going to be in ArcGIS Explorer. At the moment its still in private beta so there have been more questions than answers. However there is a reasonable amount of information posted on the ESRI website about ArcGIS Explorer. You can find it funnily enough in the ArcGIS explorer section. There is an FAQ which should answer a lot of peoples questions, things could still change before release, but it gives a good idea of some of the cool stuff you could do with this. Theres also a couple of videos and a bunch of screen-shots in addition to those shown below.
Reading the FAQ, theres lots of interesting things about ArcGIS Explorer such as support for local data and WMS services, but the thing that i think is most exciting is the extensibility that is available. This applies to both the data and the application.
One of the cool things is being able to publish your own globe and 2D services either commercially or within an organisation. So if the standard imagery is not good enough for you, you could always subscribe to a commercial globe service offering more detailed data, or use a commercial Mastermap service and stream this into the 3D viewer. If as an organisation you are interested in global data, but not necessarily the land based imagery published as default, perhaps you have climate or meteorological data, or Nautical charts or maybe environmental data, you can publish your own 3d globe data across the organisation without relying on the standard published data.
The second area of extensibility is the ability to publish custom tasks, and use the SDK to create custom interfaces to these tasks inside ArcGIS Explorer. The ability to make advanced server based Geo-processing available to the end users is a really powerful way to use ArcGIS Explorer not just for visualisation and pushpin type apps, but to allow users to do real analysis, but still using a simple interface. Things like custom network tracing for utilities networks, routing over non standard data, such a cycle or foot paths, environmental modelling, emergency management and modelling scenarios. All of these as server based tasks initiated by users inputing simple parameters through a task based user interface. I’ve had a quick play with the .Net SDK and there are all sorts of possibilities opened up by this, especially when combined with the support for Geo-processing and models within ArcGIS Sever.
It should be interesting to see what people build with these tools and whether this helps to advance the wider usage of geographic data and services beyond the simple mapping and visualisation that google earth has done such a great job of promoting.