FileMaker’s Workgroup Push

On September 27, FileMaker (http://www.filemaker.com), the wholly owned Apple database subsidiary formerly known as Claris, announced the release of FileMaker Pro 5.0, a new version of its desktop database that runs on Windows NT, Windows 9x, and the Macintosh. The new version greatly enhances the program's instant Web publishing feature, moves closer to Microsoft Office compatibility, and adds new and better support for evolving industry standards such as ODBC, ActiveX, Extensible Markup Language (XML), and JDBC. The Windows and Macintosh versions will cost $249 each or $149 if you upgrade from a previous version. According to Mary Wardley, director of eCommerce Software and Personal Applications at International Data Corporation (IDC), FileMaker Pro owned 90 percent of the Macintosh desktop standalone database market and 38 percent of the Windows market in 1998. FileMaker Pro ranks second in the standalone database market after Microsoft Access, which owns almost 50 percent of the market. IDC differentiates between databases like Access, which you purchase as part of a suite, and databases you purchase as standalone software. Wardley noted that over the past year, FileMaker Pro has actually picked up market share compared to separate purchases of Access outside the Microsoft Office suite. This situation was one of the few instances in 1998 where a product that competes head-to-head with a Microsoft Office component grew significantly in market share. FileMaker Pro has long been a favorite product in the individual and workgroup database markets because of its ease of use and its ability to operate in a cross-platform Windows and Macintosh client/server environment. FileMaker Pro 5.0 can host as many as 20 concurrent connected users in peer-to-peer solutions. A new version of FileMaker Pro Server 5.0, which the company also announced for the fourth quarter of 1999 ($999), runs on NT and offers expanded support for up to 250 concurrent connected users. With this expanded connectivity, FileMaker Pro is now targeting small- to medium-size businesses with up to 1000 seats. To improve FileMaker Pro's ability to share and manage corporate data, the base client comes with a standard ODBC driver. FileMaker Pro can serve as an ODBC data source when the program is running or the software can retrieve data from various other data sources. The program doesn’t contain a SQL interface, and it requires some workarounds for UPDATEs to other databases, but the FileMaker family is evolving toward interoperability with enterprise databases. FileMaker Pro gets a lot of use in large enterprises that require rapid application development (RAD) database workgroup solutions that the IT staff can hand off to domain experts to run. Much of FileMaker's work on FileMaker Pro 5.0 has been to provide an easy-to-use Web publishing solution. The company's results in this area are very impressive. FileMaker’s Web companion got a major upgrade in this version, and the fidelity of the pages you publish to the Web for the amount of effort you expend will delight most database developers. Although FileMaker continues to support its proprietary Claris Markup Language (and even adds more tags to it), FileMaker Pro's move to industry standards such as XML makes this language a legacy feature. The new program also supports cascading style sheets (CSSs). To support true database Web sites that must run 24x7 and have a constantly varying number of connected clients through browsers, FileMaker announced a new NT Server-based product called FileMaker Pro Unlimited. This server product provides a tuned Web server based on FileMaker and an alternative licensing scheme to the traditional LAN-based client/server model. The Unlimited server has a front-end Java load-balancing applet that lets you continue to add instances of FileMaker Pro Unlimited to the system. As your need for capacity increases, you simply plug another server into a hub to create a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Computers (RAIC) up to the limit of 250 array processors. FileMaker is releasing FileMaker Pro Unlimited in the fourth quarter of 1999 for $999. FileMaker also announced plans for the FileMaker Developer 5 kit, which FileMaker expects to ship in the first quarter of 2000 for $499. This product will let developers create a run-time solution based on their FileMaker database that they can install at customer sites or sell as a commercial product.

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