I think I have a solution to the problem of getting a GUI to connect into QM running on a PDA. Thankfully it doesn’t involve an in-depth understanding of Win32 process management, nuances of various releases of WinCE or the Compact Framework .NET, and no C++! The bottom line is that it should be a very straightforward process to use an attractive GUI with MV application software on a mobile device.
The big question is … who cares? There are the people who don’t see value in doing anything on a mobile device. There are people who see value in the mobile device but no value in a MVDBMS running locally. There are people who appreciate mobile devices but only with network access to a remote MV server.
Sure, there are lots of opinions on the topic. None of them are wrong – people respond to the demands put upon them. Some people are never asked for mobile data access and others get asked every day but they have no idea how to provide it. The point of this exercise is that I wanted to explore the various ways that we could use a PDA with MV, and in particular I was frustrated with the idea that most people are quite happy with the idea of running QM on a PDA with a character interface. That’s like being OK with a horse pulling your Mercedes.
What I’ve found is that PDA development is not very different from thick or thin-client development, and that we can as easily connect to a local or remote database – even with the same GUI. Now, I use the term "easily". Is any of this "easy"? No. But like anything it’s not tough once you know how. If someone asks me for a GUI on their PDA, my response is to say "sure, we can do that". If someone asks another Pick/MV developer for GUI on PDA, the response is probably "gee, I dunno", "no, it can’t be done", or "why would you want to do that?"
As always, I want to make sure that people understand that their Pick/MV DBMS environment, no matter which one they’re using, is as capable as any other product out there. If your end-users ask for mobile access to their data, the answer is "yes – do you want that networked live to the server, or do you want that to work even when you’re not connected to the network?" When you answer questions like this, your end-users are much less inclined to go find other products and providers that seem more capable of providing solutions.
The message I’m conveying here isn’t any different than what Nathan Rector has been telling us for years. He published an entire series of articles on PDA development in Spectrum Magazine, but I think he was ahead of the market – the consumer market for mobile-access applications was only beginning and was on the distant horizon for MV people. Today mobile access is everywhere – but is still on the horizon for most MV people who aren’t sure about the value or how to get there.
So where are the screenshots, the videos showing proof of this miracle? Well, it works but I think I hit a snag in QM itself, completely unrelated to the UI. I’m sure Martin will set me straight and then I’ll be able to create a video for you here.
I’m sure there will always be the "who cares?" group. If you look at the evolution of mobile devices you’ll see specific trends: increasing synchronization of data, increasing number of applications, increasing CPU power and data storage, more sophisticated user interfaces, increased demand for high-speed digital access, and thousands of companies producing phones, apps, and services. Isn’t that some indication that "someone cares"?
I also think about all the people I’ve heard over the years who have said "gee, if only I could carry my system around with me". Now that we have laptops that problem has largely been solved, but there are still times when you want to do something with your app and a laptop just isn’t the right device. Just ask around. Ask your end-users, the people who need to spend time in the field or in the warehouse. Ask them if they ever wished they could get some data to or from the system when they’re away from a terminal or PC. They’re the people we do this stuff for. Ask your kids, your family, the people you see texting all day long – what apps do they use and do they want, and might you be able to provide useful applications for a modern audience with your MV development skills?
If you tell your end-users they can have mobile access and they ask "why do I care?" then at least you’ve planted a seed which may grow later. They’ll also have a hard time going back to other people they know and saying "that damned Pick system can’t talk to my mobile devices like all of those other products can – maybe we should go spend a million dollars on something else". I’m sure someone who is determined to migrate will find some excuse, but it’s nice to eliminate yet another item from the list of invalid critcisms.