Editorial license. (data bases of 1993) (Editorial)
by Clifton Karnes
The year 1992 will probably go down in the computer history books as the year of the operating system. We saw Microsoft release Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups, both of which brought the promise of Windows 3.0 to fruition. And we witnessed the release of OS/2 2.0, IBM's much-talked-about full 32-bit operating system. To counterpunch OS/2 and diffuse its impact, Microsoft also announced Windows NT, that company's full 32-bit operating system, planned to be released by the end of 1992, but delayed.
Usually, we don't know until a year is over whether it was the year of the LAN or the year of the dog, but the writing for 1993 already seems to be on the wall--or, more appropriately, on the desktop.
We'll see 1993 go down in the history books as the year of the Windows database. We saw the first volleys of the database wars in 1992, but big guns are going to be fired in 1993. Here's a guide to the players.
Presason. In 1992, a couple of amazingly good Windows databases appeared. The most successful of these is Approach, an easy-to-use database that works with dBASE and Paradox files and uses the Windows interface to great advantage. In fact, we gave Approach a COMPUTE Choice Award as one of the best software products of 1992. And Approach 2.0, the latest version, is this issue's Productivity Choice.
Negotiations. Ashton-Tate invented the PC database market with dBASE way back in the days of CP/M. By 1990, however, Ashton-Tate was in trouble. It was obvious that someone was going to buy the company, but who? Whoever got A-T would get the huge, if somewhat troubled, dBASE market along with it.
Borland jumped in and quickly signed a deal with A-T. Borland already owned a significant piece of the DOS database market with Paradox. Buy buying Ashton-Tate, Borland increased its database holdings to 79 percent of that market.
Microsoft counterpunched by buying Fox Software, makers of the amazingly fast and powerful dBASE clone, FoxPro. Microsoft said there would be a FoxPro for Windows soon.
Pregame. Microsoft realized that bringing a product to market first is a big plus. There was no way to ship FoxPro for Windows in 1992, but the company was able to release Access, a powerful Windows database with an easy-to-use front end like Visual Basic. And Microsoft launched Access at an introductory lowball price of $99. Watch this one. It may come from behind and surprise us all.
That brings us to two of the biggest players in the Windows 1993 database game: Paradox for Windows and FoxPro for Windows.
Showtime. Microsoft's Access may have been released early, but Paradox for Windows was late. Originally planned for early 1992, the product was rescheduled to ship in January 1993. Was it worth the wait? In a word, yes. Paradox is dazzlingly powerful, full-featured, amazingly fast, and, perhaps even more amazing, easy to use.
Paradox for Windows isn't just Paradox for DOS translated into Windows. It's a redesign from the ground up, and it shows. The program makes excellent use of the Windows environment for both developers and end users, and it has the best visual design tools I've seen.
Early reports of FoxPro for Windows, still due to ship as I write this, show it to be an impressive product with the speed and power of its DOS brother and with excellent code compatibility with the DOS version.
In databaseland, while speed isn't everything, it's almost everything, and the question on everyone's lips is, Which is faster, FoxPro for Windows or Paradox for Windows? Based on examination of the DOS products, my guess is that they'll be about the same in speed. Both will work with Paradox DB and dBASE DBF files, and they'll cost about the same--roughly $795.
So here's a wrap-up of the major Windows database players to watch in 1993. First, there's the preseason star, Approach, and there's the pregame winner, Access. Then, there are the two contenders for the heavyweight title, Paradox for Windows and FoxPro for Windows.
And there's a good chance we'll have an exciting and entertaining halftime show with SuperBase for Windows and Clipper for Windows as headliners.