FileMaker bucking enterprise trend with latest version

Clean it up, pare it down

For most database vendors, the temptation to add powerful features to new versions, even if it means sacrificing ease of use, is hard to resist.

Not so at FileMaker Inc., the maker of the popular desktop database of the same name.

"Our niche is our niche. We'd rather make our software easier to install and use than to make it powerful enough to support 10,000 concurrent users," said Jon Sigler, vice-president for product management at the Santa Clara, Calif., subsidiary of Apple Inc.

Version 9 is the latest iteration of FileMaker, released Tuesday, offers 30 new enhancements that the company very pointedly avoids calling features, instead referring to them as "ease-of-use breakthroughs."

The most important is the new ability to allow FileMaker users and workgroups to easily tap into SQL data residing in relational databases such as MySQL, Oracle and Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server.

"We're letting Oracle, Microsoft and MySQL build those big iron systems, while we make it easy for users to generate reports from that data," Sigler said.

Version 9 also introduces a PHP Site assistant to help non-programmers use FileMaker as a back end for dynamic database-driven Web sites.

The Admin Console has also been rewritten to make it easier for users of the FileMaker Pro edition to set up and administer server software.

First introduced as a DOS product in the mid-1980s before being acquired by Apple in 1989, more than 13 million copies of FileMaker have been shipped in its 20-plus year history, according to Sigler. Aimed to be simple enough for regular knowledge workers to use, FileMaker can support up to 250 concurrent users in a workgroup.

It runs on both Mac OS X and Windows systems, including Vista.

Eight out of 10 FileMaker users are not database administrators, Sigler said.

"Everything we do is based on serving the knowledge worker," he said.

Version 9 comes in four different flavors, ranging in U.S. list retail price of $299 for the a new copy of FileMaker Pro 9, to $999 for FileMaker Server 9.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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