As promised, I am following up my initial post responding to PC World's First Look at Alpha Five, where they compared us to FileMaker Pro 9.
Here’s PC World’s opener, followed by my analysis.
The new FileMaker Pro 9 ($299) and Alpha Five Version 8 Professional ($249) both do a good job of helping ordinary people create useful and good-looking database applications. Both programs let you create desktop and Web databases for everything from e-mail marketing campaigns and online storefronts to media libraries and Christmas card lists. But the programs have different strengths: FileMaker is more intuitive, while Alpha Five offers more extensibility via scripts and Web apps.
Intuitive is a subjective thing. Clearly FileMaker was more intuitive for PC World’s writer. Your mileage may vary. I encourage you to download and try both products, and decide for yourself.
Get FileMaker here, and get Alpha Five here. Do your own testing, and let me know what you think by commenting here or sending an e-mail to me.
But I ask you: In 2007, how important is programmability (i.e., full customization)? Moreover, how important are Web applications? How important are "no installation needed," full-featured, networked applications delivered through a standard browser, running on any hardware?
Do you want a database product that's minimally extensible, and largely stuck in a 1990's desktop model, like FileMaker?
Or do you want a database that's built for extensibility, and lets you choose between building a traditional desktop app, a modern Web or browser-based app, or a hybrid app (desktop+Web/browser), as Alpha Five does?
This is a major point of distinction between FileMaker and Alpha Five, which PC World glossed over in their First Look. Alpha Five is the only available database application development platform that provides desktop, Web, and hybrid capabilities in one tool. Moreover, Alpha Five gives users total control over all three approaches.
Frankly, if your requirements call for more than one person to access your database, do you really want to force everyone to buy and install a copy of FileMaker on their desktop? Do you really want to be forced to buy and set up a file server, and run the database on your local area network? Do you want your database to sputter when it reaches 9 simultaneous users (FileMaker's hard-coded limit without an extra-cost server)?
Or would you prefer the flexibility to decide which users should be using a traditional Windows application, and which users you would like to send to a Web address (an URL), so they can access your new database through any Web browser?
And instead of limiting your flexible, extensible Web-or-desktop database to 9 users, how would you like to support hundreds of users out of the box, without being forced to buy extra file servers? That's the Alpha Five way.
Intuitive: Let’s go with PC World and give it to FileMaker, even though we disagree. We could debate "intuitive" until the sun runs out of energy. It's subjective.
Programmable (PC World says "extensible," but it's really programmability they're talking about): Alpha Five clearly deserves the nod.
Flexible (desktop, Web, and hybrid apps): No contest. Alpha Five does it all. FileMaker doesn't. It's a desktop database with limited Web capabilities.
Scalable: Again, Alpha Five v.8. We have customers whose Alpha Five databases are supporting over 300 users out of the box. FileMaker arbitrarily limits you to 9 users out of the box. Need to serve more? Reach for your checkbook.
The tally: Alpha Five 3, FileMaker 1.
Stay tuned for ROUND III comparing Alpha Five v.8 and FileMaker Pro v.9.