I would go into greater detail but I’ll just let you guys read along. I think I can do this in Three links with three small summaries. Full disclosure – I don’t work with lidar data – but I work with a lot of GIS data and your data format is important. Your software is important. I’ve run into this more than once where a client gets lost through salesman double speak:
From Rapidlasso: http://rapidlasso.com/2014/11/06/keeping-esri-honest/
So Rapidlasso has a lidar format – LAS. It compresses. It’s open. Rapidlasso also publishes software that makes use of the format. Almost everyone uses it. There’s an open source library to help you along. Except ESRI forked it back in late 2013 or early 2014. When the fork (Named zLAS or Optimized LAS) happened like any good software company they started getting clients pulled into the format and moving forward. Which more or less isn’t cool. Taking an open format and closing it off isn’t a good thing. Especially when you the practitioner of GIS doesn’t take the time to get informed.
Finally from OSGEO: http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/LIDAR_Format_Letter
OSGEO Finally threw in and went “We’ve got a standard, quit naming your stuff like it’s approved by the working group, and keep your data open.” To me is a bit like talking to a wall but at least someone went on the record and said something. I’m also surprised at the continued silence of ASPRS in all of this. Does the letter do anything physically – well no – but it does show a group of people aren’t happy. Are the unhappy people ESRI users? More than likely not but it is a list of people with interest in the technology and the format.
ESRI responded: http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-April/014141.html
In general – We support open standards and sorry not sorry. No mention of backing down or doing something different. Which is to be expected at this point – they need to sell software to you, the practitioner, and the only good way you do that is to control quite a bit of the market (disclaimer: I use ESRI Software) which they do.
So – what can you do? Sign the letter from OSGEO. Inform yourself. Salesman are everywhere and just be aware if you ask the advice of a salesman you’re going to get a lot of advice that may not be good for your organization. If you’re a 100% ESRI shop and you’re never gonna change – don’t worry about it. Continue. If you’re shop looking to grow and branch out – you might want to watch learn a bit more about all of this stuff.