Want to (just) display data from Oracle or SQLServer in ArcMap? You have to pay for the privilege!

I was just reading Abe Gillespie’s post about the decision to release zigGIS, the Arcmap plugin to access PostGIS data  as open source (again) and it got me thinking:- If you want to display oracle or sql server spatial data in ArcMap you have to also pay for ArcSDE. And it doesn’t come cheap. Bit cheeky this from ESRI I think. Especially since you did NOT have to do this back in ArcGIS 8.x days. The sde libraries were part of the ArcMap product and you could use “direct connect” to simply display the data. (You still had to create the sde schema and owner in your database which was another major pain, but will leave that for now…)

Compare this with the $279 you have to pay now for ziGIS to access PostGIS data (and soon to be $0) and the $0 you pay to display Oracle or SQLServer data using MapServer or QGIS. And none of them requires you to tinker with your database!

Is it just me who thinks that ESRI (“ezree”) got it wrong somewhere along the line? Why do I have to go for a fully-blown ESRI solution? Why should my customers pay for something they will never use? Still though, since ESRI’s ArcMap IS a good product and it IS used by a lot of people, are there  any other brave souls out there who are working for Oracle or SQLServer plugins?