What about Xbase and Android?
by G.Napolitano
October 2011

So I got this thin little cute Android Tablet. Nice. Fancy. Stylish.
It is an Asus eeePad transformer, and it is lovely.
I'm pretty sure this device is the future of personal computing: want the conclusive evidence?
I give it to mom and, after a reasonable time she was able to do basics operations like surfing the net and installing applications from the Android Market.
This is almost a miracle, considering that mom still has problems with the TV remote control and she never worked out how to operate the VCR (and after spending much more time than with tablet she definetely gave up with "the thing" and from that day stubbornly refused to consider the existence of the device, simply demoted to simple ornament).

Anyway, having started to use computer with WordStar 3.40 and dBase II on CPM/MPM, all these whistles and bells make me begin to feel like an old, old dinosaur.
Oh,yes.The tablet. I love it too. But it puts me on the wrong side of the river: I suddenly became, from a "programmer" I was, an unarmed user.
Oh, yes. Android tablets and their sensitive touchscreens certainly grant an "user's experience" that we old die-hard of the keyboard are not used to. Not to mention the overall shiny look and graphical effects and interface.
But, now, with these "jetsons-like" things around, how do we fit in this context?

Yes, obviously I already downloaded the Android SDK  but, after a quick look I decided I was too old to go down that road and start over all again. I am, and I remain procedural, and I quickly realized that my time was almost over (at least in this business). I sadly felt that an end of an era was approaching.
Anyway, after being playing a while with the tablet, I slowly started considering the things under another point of view:
Tablets make the use of computers (because this is what they are, despite all efforts to hide it to people) incredibly easier. So people can now avoid to spend most of their time to figure out how to operate the machinery, and finally start to doing some job with it in the saved time.
What kind of "job" remains disputed, thus. Certainly not programming. If we exclude games, phoning, video watching and music listening (all things already done by specialized devices, and that here now are grouped togheter for conveniece in a single device) what it remains, and the core of the innovation, is basicly being able to browsing the internet anywhere, and do it confortably on a wide, bright, large screen.
At the very end the "tablet revolution" is basicly internet access "anywere,anytime": thus visiting web sites. And possibily interacting with them.

Now that the wall has fallen, more and more people will be using computers (oh, yes: tablets!) and they will mostly will use them to surf the net. This means that the availability of web contents will become more and more crucial and that soon the focus will shift from "appearance" to "content". And when I say "content" I mean, among other things, "business content". Databases, in facts.
And when it comes to databases, if in the same sentence it is included the word "internet", my intrest start rising exponentially.
Perhaps not all is lost.

Even the smallest firm soon will realize that could not afford to ignore the changing scene: tablets (and phones resembling tablets) will follow their owners all the time, and soon will become the favorite means of communication. More than any generalist TV. More than standard internet advertising. An expanded communication that will stress business communication with its need to reach unprecedented levels of integration with company's data contents.
The already existing feature of Google Maps showing the shops near to tablet-carrying persons will offer new business opportunities, but very soon people will not be satisfied of simply knowing of the presence of a certain shop, but will also want to know if the item they are looking for can be found there. And this will happen while they walk around the city.

So. How we Xbase dynosaurs will position ourselves in all this?

Well, leaving aside DBFree (that perfectly fits this scenario, given it may produce lightweight web apps, but it needs an "always-on" internet connection that can result expensive) I 've found an intresting product that can read DBF files and work on them asyncronously "right on tablet" off-line, to re-synch them when it reaches a wi-fi hot-spot.

The product is from Cellica Corp. (Princeton,NJ) and it is composed by two distinct application, one for Android (the Front-end) to install from Android's Market, and one for Windows (the Back-end).

This is how the Back-end  looks like:

This is another screenshot of back-end: the form designer

I gave it a test, and in less than ten minutes I had one of DBFree samples (demo21) up and working, with some basic functionality.
As said, the intresting thing is that by using this product you can edit data on the field without the need of an active connection, and synch as soon as a wi-fi connection becomes available.
This makes possible to build order collection applications perfectly integrated with existing PC-based apps, and the tablet an ideal tool for collecting orders, make inventory and in general for data-collection, considered it may act as scanner for bar-code and p-code and has an integrated camera with 5Mpx resolution.

If you have an Android tablet, definetely gave a try to Cellica Database Wi-Fi (it's a 10 days trial version).
If you don't have a tablet, well, just get it.
Maybe I'm wrong, and this is not the future nor the next revolution, but in case, better to be ready to face it.