Miami Nice

By Craig Saunders, 11 September 2012

In the cold of July Daniel, Julie and myself packed our skimpiest summer gears, sprayed on the tan and headed to body-beautiful Miami? OK it wasn't exactly like that, but it was hot hot hot and the hotel Fontainebleau was a classy venue, right on the beach.

The real reason we headed to Miami was of course the annual FileMaker Developer Conference where over 1200 of the best developers from around the world gather to indulge in all things FileMaker.

So what did we indulge in? The odd cocktail may have been consumed, but DevCon is most definitely a geek?fest so invariably the conversation is very technical. I won't bore you with the details but suffice to say there was plenty of knowledge to be shared and great ideas gleaned.

The real value of attending a global event like this is the chance to get a sense of where things are going and to be inspired by seeing some of the amazing things others are doing? like a Japanese solution for dental surgeons where you draw on a patient's teeth using an iPad. You draw on the iPad I mean.

Out There

This year the overwhelming sense was that "mobile" is really taking off in business, and that means iPhones and iPads finally getting down to some serious work?

This is a tectonic shift in how technology is used ? it's a whole new game. You can now empower anyone in a workplace with a computer, camera, GPS and mobile internet connection, and all disguised as nothing more than a flashy phone.

Not surprisingly then DevCon 2012 featured a number of sessions on developing specifically for mobile devices, from user interface design to performance enhancing magic.

Another hot topic is "location awareness" ? an iPhone or iPad can know which job you're on if your work is location based so why not automatically bring up information about that job? (Of course it also knows when you're at the pub and could potentially log that too?)

Faster, Pussycat

Behind the commercial needs are the technology challenges, and what we saw at DevCon was that speed is the big one which everyone is tackling head on.

For a start if you're mobile, you can't count on being connected to the mothership so there was a lot of discussion about synchronizing data, whereby database records are copied onto the device so it doesn't matter if cell reception is crap. Things work much faster this way too, so it's a better experience all round.

But you also need to get connected and store everything centrally, so there were sessions on optimizing databases for "WAN" (over the Internet) performance. Engineers and product mangers from FileMaker Inc made it clear that performance, particularly over the internet, is a huge priority for them going forward.

New Interfaces

And what would a geek conference be without some new technology? In FileMaker 12 it's the new 'CSS' web technology that gives us the ability to make much better looking screens, that feel contemporary and dynamic, just like the web kids do.

Alas it's also still very easy to mess it up, so to go with the new tools there were sessions on User Interface design and Usability, including a great lecture by Heather Winkler who is head of UI at FileMaker Inc. In fact there were a lot of sessions from FileMaker staff ? a lot more than before, and really good to see because they're often able to give us a whole new level of insight, after all they know what's going on 'cause they built the product!

Aside from the sessions and discussions, cocktails and beers, awards (see Mad Dog Daniel Wood) and nice dinners, we got to spend time chewing the fat with the FileMaker engineers and product managers. We were rapt to hear the way they're talking about FileMaker as a platform now, for business innovation, embracing 'app' development and looking well out into the future. FileMaker 12 is a foundation version and opens the way for some very cool stuff to come yet.

Right, so get back to Silicon Valley people and get to it, please.

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