With I-mode about the gain support in Europe and the UK, FileMaker, the database-software subsidiary of Apple, has launched a new software package that will enable users of its database software to access data via I-mode wireless Internet handsets. The move could also pave the way for FileMaker sites that are accessed via I-mode.
The FileMaker Mobile for I-mode software was launched Tuesday in Japan, home market to NTT DoCoMo and its more than 30 million I-mode handset users, and will be available from mid-March. Working alongside the company's FileMaker Pro database software, the new package marks FileMaker's debut in the cellular-handset market.
"The I-mode service is very popular in Japan among consumers but is increasingly attractive to business as well," said Dominique Goupil, president of FileMaker. The package will be targeted at smaller businesses that do not have the resources to set up large databases, he said. "Not everyone has £1,000,000 and 12 months to put together big infrastructures. Small businesses or departments in large businesses can implement projects."
The company has already found organizations interested in using the new software, it said. NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai), Japan's public broadcaster, is planning to publish a pronunciation dictionary via I-mode for use by its 6,000 radio and television announcers, while 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 US 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 NV, NTT DoCoMo plans to launch an I-mode based service in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany this year. It will compete with WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) 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 around £500.
The company's other product in the mobile space is its FileMaker Mobile 2 for Palm OS software, a new version of which was launched Monday at the PalmSource exhibition in San Jose, California. The software, which costs around £30 or is free to existing users, is intended for use on a Palm operating system-based PDA (personal digital assistant) 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.
He also repeated the company's pledge to produce a version for Pocket PC-based PDAs before the end of this year, although he declined to offer any specific details of the software.