Can your iPhone Run a Database App?

It was 1982 when dBASE first appeared in computer stores. At the time, I was pretty busy with FireFile, which later went on to become LapLink when the term “laptop” was eventually coined. dBASE was a simple data management tool for personal computers, but it included a scripting language that made it possible to build some relatively complex and comprehensive applications.

A key advantage to dBASE was its “late binding” architecture. This simply means that the scripts are interpreted when the user actually runs the application. These interpretive database apps require a “run-time” core and the scripts that form the basis of the application. FileMaker (Apple), and Access (Microsoft) are good examples of modern interpretive database systems with late binding architecture.

In contrast, “early binding” is part of the world of compiled code. These are commonly known as the “executables” that are installed and ready to run on your desktop. Compiled applications include the “run-time” core combined with machine-translated scripts. In unison, they form complete business applications. iOS apps, for the most part, are compiled; they’re presented for approval to the app store in finished form. This is important for Apple because they need to approve the complete user experience before the app can be downloaded through the App Store. If Apple allowed apps that are architecturally designed for interpretive use (late binding), programmers could create apps whose behaviors might be largely dependent on and influenced by data and scripts.

When we think of database applications, we think of large, complex forms. The traditional idea of database applications in business has been around for decades. Enterprises use them to meet complex operational requirements, while personal databases provide simple solutions for custom uses.

Why Flash doesn’t work on iOS devices

The Apple-Adobe-iOS crisis of 2010 is fundamentally based on the late binding principle. Flash-based apps could include script and data-driven features that could present unknown functionalities at run-time. The world of interpretive, late-binding apps presents risks that Apple is reluctant to make available to its customers.

It’s unusual to ponder database apps on the iPhone—just the thought of complex entry forms and applications compressed into the iPhone’s screen blurs the best vision. But you can find some meaningful uses of database technology on the magical iDevice if you set aside the historical concept of traditional database forms and think about mobile information requirements.

FilemakerGo1FileMaker Pro, a long-time favorite for Mac and Windows database developers and Apple’s desktop database software, is now available for iOS devices including the iPad. FileMaker Go comes in two versions: one for the iPad ($39.99,, and one for the iPhone/iPod touch ($19.99, Most importantly, FileMaker Go is designed as a run-time app for database applications designed on Windows and Mac desktops.

FilemakerGo On iPadFilemaker provides an end-to-end architecture for building, testing, and deploying business apps to the iOS platform—all without getting approval from Apple. In fact, FileMaker apps can be deployed over email, from website links, through cloud storage services, and via local synching with iTunes. And, these database apps can connect to remote data sources as well as databases delivered with the app.

FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go silently collaborate to deliver a comprehensive architecture for developing rapid business solutions that enhance the value and extend the reach of business information to mobile workers.

But what does the availability of Filemaker Go mean in the context of the iPhone?

FileMaker Go is now available for iOS devices including the iPad.

Mobile BI is hot!

The iPhone has proven to be a significant tool, shaping a new resurgence in Business Intelligence (BI). Companies such as QlikTech, and RoamBI are leading the way with iPhone apps optimized for the presentation of complex business information. However, these products are largely dependent upon existing enterprise intelligence data sources, and they tend to focus on objective and quantifiable data from sales, manufacturing and operations. Furthermore, traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions may struggle to provide the type of information necessary to assist employees in the new reality of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0.

Using the simple desktop design environment of FileMaker Pro, you have the basis for developing all sorts of mobile BI solutions that are optimized for the iPhone. And because of FileMaker’s architecture (database apps in a run-time native module), you can deploy app solutions for your business without going through the App Store.

Of all the devices and platforms out there, FileMaker Go and the iPad represent a lush garden of user interface opportunities. The innovation possibilities for advancing the science of personal and small business “databasery” are enormous with this product. I believe FileMaker is at a crossroads in defining the future of personal database solutions that will usher in a new era in hyper-data productivity.

At no other time in the history of FileMaker’s existence has a doorway swung so wide that it enables an entirely new mobile database experience and competitive differentiator for the company. Through this doorway, users may create a new stage of highly polished, fully “iPhonized” layouts.

FileMaker Go makes it possible
March-April 2011
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