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Thursday, July 26, 2007

FileMaker Pro 9 vs. Alpha Five v.8: ROUND I

Some of you might have seen the recent comparative review in PC World between Alpha Five V8 and FileMaker Pro 9. If not, I encourage you to give it a read.

The good news: PC World thought the new Alpha Five version 8 warranted a "First Look," and both products ended up with a "very good" rating (FileMaker earned 86 points, Alpha Five earned 85 points).

The part that bothered us here at Alpha Software was that the First Look didn't look deeply enough, resulting in what we’re cheerfully referring to as a "First Overlook." We feel it is important to shed some light on some key facts for PC World's roughly 1.4 million readers.

The easiest way to do this is to tackle the article point by point. So let’s go, shall we? Let’s deconstruct the headline first. PC World says:

"Alpha Five offers more choices for extending functions with scripts and Web software, but most users will likely want to spend the extra money for the more-intuitive FileMaker."

Add water and expand. My translation (tongue firmly placed in cheek, phasers loaded):

Non-programmers can create desktop database applications with FileMaker visually, without writing a single line of code. But they can't easily extend those apps to exist as full blown apps on the Web, nor can they customize those apps without limitations on the desktop using a robust scripting language or a programming language.

Non-programmers can easily create powerful desktop database applications with Alpha Five visually, without writing a single line of code. Experienced Alpha Five developers can also use any mix of declarative or dynamic languages, such as Action Script, Xbasic, portable SQL, vendor SQL (and, soon, AJAX-powered GUIs that require no programming to build).

Forget about building full featured hosted Web applications (similar to anything that can be done with Visual Studio, Ruby, or PHP) with FileMaker. You just can't do it, unless you want Web apps that have very real limits in terms of their ability to be customized, don't scale, or require bolting on third-party products and coding in server-side scripting languages such as PHP.

Flip side: Plan on building professional hosted Web applications and database-driven on-demand software services in Alpha Five. You can build against the native Alpha Five database engine, or against any SQL backend (Alpha Five supports ODBC and native drivers for MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2). Pure Web development support is baked in.

Frankly, the design goal of Alpha Five Version 8 was to empower anyone, from the average Joe to the CIO, to build the same kind of apps one can develop in PHP or .NET or Ruby or JSP or what have you -- but 5 to 10 times faster than is possible using any of those platforms.

So I guess PC World's conclusion that most users will likely want to spend $50 more (or hundreds/thousands more when servers are price-compared) to be constrained by FileMaker’s limitations, because it's "more intuitive initially" -- even if it does run out of gas once your database needs grow -- makes a lot of sense (or as Borat would say, "Not!")

OK, I got that off my chest. Shields down. Phasers on standby. ;-)

I'll be posting more on FILEMAKER 9 VERSUS ALPHA FIVE VERSION 8. I will drill into more detail regarding the two program's contrasts, and provide some benchmark results that anyone considering a database development platform, FileMaker or Access or anything else, will want to know.


Philippe said...

Quick sugestion : sell your product with ready to use solutions (contact management, order management, employee directory...); and give those solutions for free. Document them very well, and give clues on how to extend/adapt them.

Then create a website where existing users can upload and share their own solutions based on alha five.

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