FileMaker launches I-mode database software

FileMaker, Apple's database-software subsidiary, has launched a new software package that will enable users of its database...

FileMaker, Apple's database-software subsidiary, has launched a new software package that will enable users of its database software to access their data via I-mode wireless Internet handsets.

FileMaker Mobile for I-mode was launched in Japan, home market to NTT DoCoMo and over 30 million I-mode handset users, and will be available from mid-March.

"The main target is business users," said Dominique Goupil, president of FileMaker. "The I-mode service is very popular in Japan among consumers but is increasingly attractive to business as well."

The package will be targeted at smaller businesses that do not have the resources to set up large databases, he said. "Not everyone has a million dollars and 12 months to put together big infrastructures. Small businesses or departments in large businesses can implement projects."

The company claims to have already found organisations interested in using the new software. NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, is planning to publish a pronunciation dictionary via I-mode for use by its 6,000 radio and television announcers. Kobe College is using the system to allow prospective students to schedule admissions interviews.

Initially the software will be available only in Japan, but Goupil does not rule out releasing versions for I-mode or other wireless Internet services in other markets.

"We looked at Japan, where there are 30 million users, it's one country and one language so we felt there was a critical mass to justify the product," he said. "In the U.S. and Europe things are more fragmented and so our idea is to start in the Japanese market, and learn from it - and then we will see if NTT DoCoMo can successfully address the market in the US or Europe."

Together with partner KPN Mobile, NTT DoCoMo plans to launch an I-mode based service in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany this year. It will compete with WAP services that are already available but have not proved particularly successful.

The package, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Red Hat Linux, is priced at ¥89,000 (£468). Including the FileMaker Pro database software, the cost of the system comes to ¥128,000 (£674), just ¥1,000 cheaper than the company's packages for publishing databases on the World Wide Web.

The company's other product in the mobile space is FileMaker Mobile 2 for Palm OS software, a new version of which was launched at the PalmSource exhibition.

The software, which costs $49 or is free to existing users, is intended for use on a Palm operating system-based personal digital assistant (PDA), and allows users to access FileMaker databases and transfer records onto their PDAs.

The new version adds support for up to 50 data fields per record, double that supported in the prior version, and has several new data-entry options to make adding information to records easier, said Goupil.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)