In this burgeoning world of geospatial and location based servives (LBS), there are literally hundreds of products in the market place that offer light to heavy flavor of GIS systems for integration with tracking or other applications.
It is tough to determine whether each product out there meets the traditional underpinnings of a true GIS. As a GIS user myself i was quite amazed to see the development, in the last few years i bet there has been tremendous research going on in this field.
The lack of accepted definition has given rise in many gross misconceptions about what a GIS is, what its capabilities are, and what such system might be used for. Right now GIS has been evangelised as an integral part of the location based services such as asset tracking softwares, GPS tracking using phones, and a lot more. If you have observed closely microsoft has taken over Vicinity corp in the past and started out its own mapping product Mappoint which can be considered a huge sucess, people have inturn realised the potential of mapping software which could be used for routing etec and the same followed with mappoint and other web portals offering routing and trip palnning.
This increase in the people awareness has created a huge market for these systems. In a true sense mappoint can be considered a light weight or light flavor GIS or more approprietly mapping software. But as popularity grew for these systems, the need for more faster systems that could disseminate geospatial data to a wide audience consisting of web as well desktop was realised and soon came the products like Drill down server from Telcontar and similar comapnies. They developed systems that are more conducive for developing applications that need some GIS functionality, and the should be easy enough to be integrated with business systems and satellite communications to develop cutting edge location based systems. The sucess of Google Maps has brought in a wide variety of mapping applications built on top of it. Google has made history in a sense by opening up the API’s to public and letting then mash-up new services. Soon followed suit by Microsoft with their Virtual earth platform. But certainly Google has re-written the euqations in the geospatial industry with a variety of eyecatching and useful products like google earth (previously Keyhole) that work on the slick keyhole platform.
I have used almost all the GIS software out there, and most of them are either used to store, retreive, develop, and maintain a wide vaiety of geospatial data including vector and raster datasets. Not to forget the tremendous capabilities for analysing the data, over the past few years GIS is literally used in almost every domain including hydrology, remotesensing applications, land database management, Transportation applications to name a few. For more applications of GIS checkout ESRI.
I wouldl say it is too early to decide what GIS can do and what not, we still have to wait and see what really cant be done using GIS! so honestly the question “is it GIS?” is determined by the end application that comes out of it. If it is used just to visualize and track assets it could be called Hybrid GIS, if it is used for geospatial data management and analysis- it is true GIS and so on….