By now, the majority of our readers have heard about the pending combination of DigitalGlobe and GeoEye – and very likely you have seen news that covers the spectrum from positive to neutral to negative. Some of you may have formed your own opinions on the combination of the two leading high-resolution satellite imagery providers; and as you can imagine, the Apollo Mapping team has its own strong, positive opinion of this admittedly expected news story – and we say this story was expected given GeoEye’s recent loss of a portion of its US military contracts.
To frame the discussion that follows, as we are not financial experts, none of our opinion focuses on what this combination means to shareholders and the like. Rather, we focus on the positive impacts for those in the geospatial, remote sensing and broader mapping communities. In our opinion, the combination of DigtialGlobe and GeoEye will bring:
- Better coordination of their high-resolution satellite resources. This will impact both tasking and the quality of the archive that they will be able to provide. Currently, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye are embroiled in a rather passive battle for increased market share of both new collections (i.e. tasking) and archive orders. In this passive battle, the two companies have to balance the need to fulfill ‘risky’ tasking orders with unknown cloud cover conditions vis-a-vis obtaining imagery strictly for the archive (and thus unpredictable future revenue) in areas that are expected to be cloud free. This daily struggle between a quality archive and fulfilling tasking orders quickly happens unseen and unconsidered by many in our community; but still with very real impacts on our ability to obtain the high-resolution imagery we all need. With a combined constellation of 5 high resolution satellites, these companies will be able to streamline operations and better coordinate their efforts to both build the archive and simultaneously fulfill tasking order. For example, instead of two companies with a goal to have imagery over the Houston area that is less than 6 months old, as a combination, you only need to collect this area once to have the desired coverage.
- New products and innovations. Both DigitalGlobe and GeoEye feature extremely experienced and creative sales, marketing, production and development teams. By combining this experience and creativity, the marketplace will benefit as innovative and new products are made available. Further, a combined company again means less duplication of efforts – so instead of two companies pursing the same goal for quick streaming services (i.e. WMS, WCS), they can combine their experience, come up with solutions quicker and spend previously duplicated time and development funds on other projects.
- Better customer service and easier to use products. Many of you likely order from both DigitalGlobe and GeoEye either directly or through your Apollo Mapping sales team. By consolidating companies, a more standardized process for ordering imagery will be created as will a standard metadata system for all five of their combined high resolution satellites. This standardization will only make things easier for all us that work with a variety of data products and sources on a daily basis.
- New online search tools for both archives. Many of you likely visit both the DigitalGlobe and GeoEye websites on a regular basis to search for the high resolution coverage you need. When these two companies combine, you can cut your work in half as you will be able to visit one website to search their combined archives. Or, in the meantime, you can always check out Apollo Mapping’s Image Hunter which already lets you search, preview and order from a combined imagery archive of DigitalGlobe, GeoEye and more!
- A healthy and competitive marketplace. Many of the recent, negative stories I have seen and comments I have heard about the DigitalGlobe-GeoEye combination focus (at least in part) on the lack of competition this move will create. To them we say that there is still plenty of viable competition left, aka Astrium, who just launched their first high resolution satellite, Pléiades 1A, and plan to launch its twin, Pléiades 1B, by the end of 2013. Further, there are startup companies, such as Skybox Imaging and their planned constellation of micro-satellites, which should offer competition in the near future. And finally, there is a healthy and more established competitor, i.e. aerial photography, which will certainly keep any new pricing model in check if these combined companies want to continue to compete in this marketplace.
In the end, as our industry grows and more companies turn public, we should expect corporate mergers, takeovers and the rest; but there is no reason to assume the combination of DigitalGlobe and GeoEye will mean anything but positive changes for our mapping community.
The Apollo Mapping Sales Team
Katie Nelson & Brock Adam McCarty