Just as we are settling down with the transition to open source, it would seem that a lot of other people are at least considering their options along the same lines, for whatever reason. This thread on the osgeo_discuss list, started off as a question about the value of open source to individual’s careers, but rapidly morphed into a discussion about replacing the ESRI packages. This seems to have lead to a general consensus about the areas where the open source packages do well and do badly.
The consensus seems to be that the open source packages are great for the behind-the-scenes and/or web-based work, assuming a relatively technically literate user, but that cartographic capabilities are sadly lacking at the moment. Furthermore, if you’re looking for one single replacement, then you’re out of luck- but you can assemble a toolkit that will get you all the capabilities you need, in a modular fashion. This does require a change in mindset- but it’s a lot more flexible and hopefully more powerful.
I hope that this recent upswell of interest and consensus about where the open source packages need improvement will help focus development in those areas. This does seem to be happening: this page is about plans for a cartographic library that can be shared amongst different packages. Sign up to show your support!
PS- if you’re in the UK you can still come along to our first UK OSGeo meetup at Stansted tomorrow (Thursday 1st) at 4.30. It’s free to attend, there will be some talks to start with (better finish writing mine), then we’ll sit down and try and figure out what we want a UK local chapter to do. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits too, so what are you waiting for!