It is currently open season for companies shooting for the end-user that wants to develop applications in the micro environment. Of course the end-user in this context can vary enormously, from general mid-management wanting to tailor everyday applications, to the professional programmer wishing to write programs. Irrespective of skill-level, however, both types of user want […]
It is currently open season for companies shooting for the end-user that wants to develop applications in the micro environment. Of course the end-user in this context can vary enormously, from general mid-management wanting to tailor everyday applications, to the professional programmer wishing to write programs. Irrespective of skill-level, however, both types of user want more software power on the desktop and companies are falling over each other to give the punters what they want. One such company is Software Products International, headquartered in San Diego, California, which has launched two products for the person who is not a computer professional, but who is a professional in his own right. The company was established in 1979 to as a software publisher, and all the company’s software continues to be written in the US despite the fact that 90% of its $18m annual turnover is derived from Europe. Its best-known product (better known on the continent than in the UK or the US) is the database management system Open Access which was launched six years ago and currently has 200,000 users world-wide. The company claims that the product is the best-selling MS-DOS package in the Spanish market, and occupies the number three position in Germany. Within the UK, customers for the product include the Libra Bank and British Rail departments, as well as the government sector. Yet, on the whole, the company’s products have not yet taken off very well in the UK, and managing director of Reading, Berkshire-based Software Products International (UK) Ltd, Deryk Randall, attributes this to the company’s late arrival over here. Following market research, however, Software Products has redesigned its products to appeal to small and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees, and Randall believes this should help its UK market share. The two products that have benefitted from this redesign are Open Access version 3.0 and the new product, Access SQL. Open Access 3.0 is a product hoping to appeal to people who don’t want to learn dBase. Instead Software Products claims it offers an easy way of learning SQL, since it teaches the user how to build queries for SQL as she uses the system. This is because all commands have to be issued using Query by Example. The relational aspect of the Open Access system is made easier by the use of data access forms, while documentation is now available on-line in a Hypertext reference system. Version 3.0 can create graphs using data from any of the six modules (database management, spreadsheet development, three-dimensional graphics generation, word processing, communications and time management) within the package. The number of fields offered by Open Access has been extended to 255 in version 3.0, the sorting routine has been improved to sort non-inexed fields, while within the word processing program the user can now open multiple files using virtual memory technology. With this new version, the user with C programming skills can now also customise the packaged applications because of the Open Access open architecture, which incorporates a C language interface. Similarly, any program that is written in C can operate within Open Access version 3.0 and make use of its internal functions.
Software Products’ totally new offering, however, is Access SQL which is described as a relational database product running under MS-Windows using the Gupta database engine. Because of the use of client-server architecture, Access SQL can use SQL to get data directly from the server or remotely via the server from mainframe files. It has gateways to both DB2 and Oracle on the mainframe. The main target for this new product is mid-level managers – Software Products hopes these will be attracted to its software through its windows environment which is accessed using a mouse since executives appear to feel demeaned when asked to sully their hands on a keyboard. Access SQL offers three levels of access: form access for novices (such as secretaries) who will use the system as it is given to them;
table access (for middle management) which is driven by push buttons; and SQL access (for the management information services department) under which the user types SQL statements into a window. Both products are available in December. Open Access 3.0 will be UKP700, while Access SQL for one to four users will cost UKP1,600, and both will be distributed in the UK by Xitan and Software Ltd. Looking to the future, Randall said the company’s products would be up under Unix sometime next year, and that such packages written in C could be dropped into the OS/2 environment when required. – Katy Ring