Ovum, a technology analyst firm, says Apple’s iPad isn’t the silver bullet newspaper owners are hoping for.

In a report dated May 28, the company says: “Apple’s much-hyped tablet device alone will fail to secure the future of news and magazine publishing.”

Adrian Drury, Ovum’s principal media and broadcasting analyst and report co-author, say: “The iPad promise is a set of new distribution channels for packaged media, but it is one device and volumes will take time to build. Traditional publishing’s challenge to find a new and sustainable business model is immediate.”

The company also says the market for iPad media will quickly become “congested”.

The company forecasts Apple will have shipped 13.2 million iPads by the end of 2011. This compares with 25 million iPhones shipped in 2009 alone.

You can read my 2005 piece about FileMaker Pro version 8 written for The Sydney Morning Herald below.

Like much of my work I wrote it for business users, not geeks.

Much of what I said still stands with FileMaker Pro version 10. Most of the time FileMaker is easier to use than Microsoft Access if you’re not a coder.

I’ve recently discovered some areas where Access is simpler than FileMaker. Access makes it easier to turn two straightforward flat-file databases into a relational database. FileMaker does the job, but it is not intuitive.

I can’t say why Access beats FileMaker in this department. I suspect it is because Microsoft designed Access from the ground up as a relational database while FileMaker was originally a flat file database. Filemaker bolted on relational capabilities later. If you know of a better explanation please comment below.

FileMaker 8 by Bill Bennett

Unless you happen to have the kind of brain that is politely described as ‘antisocial’ storing, tracking, sorting and retrieving large amounts of information is best left to a machine.

Data processing is what computers were doing for most of the past 50 year before they escaped from their air-conditioned bunkers and made their way on to our desktops and into our homes.

These days, the database software handling these tasks can run on standard PCs. But there’s a big problem with most of the programs designed to help you sort digital wheat from electronic chaff; they are either so complex you need a PhD in computer science to use them or they are too simple to be of much help outside of limited applications.

Microsoft Access

Microsoft’s Access sits at the difficult end of the spectrum. There’s no doubt the database packaged with some versions of Office is incredibly powerful. You need to be comfortable with programming code to perform even the simplest tasks. And a lot of Access’ features are geared towards IT departments, not individual users. Which means it is strictly for professionals.

Most easy-to-use databases tend to be geared towards specific functions, such as contact managers and helping you keep track of music collections. They’re useful, but not flexible and you need to buy a different product to manage each task, which can get expensive.

FileMaker Pro (now on version 8, $499) bridges the gap. It manages to be both powerful and relatively easy-to-use mainly because it has stayed focused on usability and not packing-in every conceivable feature.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, Filemaker is owned by Apple, which knows to build computers and music players capable of hide complexity behind simplicity.

Creating a database in FileMaker Pro is largely a matter of manipulating items on a cleverly designed graphical screen. It is mainly about building tables then dragging, clicking and filling in forms.

Templates

To get you started the software comes with 40-odd pre-built template databases for different home and business applications. Some of these will fit your needs out of the box. More often, a template will need  tweaking – this generally won’t present too many problems for most people. FileMaker lends itself to tinkering. So set aside some time to learn its ways you’ll find it rewarding.

One interesting aspect of FileMaker is its close ties to Microsoft Office – for example you can use data from an Excel spreadsheet as a way of kick-starting a database. It is also easy to move information from FileMaker to Office applications. The software can also output information as .PDF files.

Building simple databases from scratch isn’t too hard. But sooner or later you may need to get to grips with the software on a more technical level. FileMaker is a relational database, this means it can use multiple tables and link information between them. So you might keep people’s names and address in one table and things they buy in another. Making the most of this functionality can get tricky, although it is worth the effort.

The great thing about FileMaker is that creating databases doesn’t have to be complicated. It remains a great tool for non-programmers to build quick and dirty database applications. And that’s what matters.

In Smartphones show 300 percent growth in use as ebook readers Martin Taylor provides data tracking the use of iPhone, Android and other smartphone models. He says the evidence shows people are not only downloading ebook reader applications, but are actively using them to read books.

In other words, it’s clear smartphones are also being used by many people to replace printed newspapers and magazines.

I’d argue smartphones make a tolerable, not a desirable reader. I realise my aging Palm T|X isn’t as polished as, say, an Apple iPhone, but it’s simply not up to the job of reading anything more than a few paragraphs.

I don’t own an iPhone although I have used one – and in my opinion it’s not a great improvement.

While many modern smartphones offer high-resolution screens, they are still tiring to read. Their size and format are at best adequate – but still a long way from great reading devices. A year ago I wrote iPod for newspapers, but not yet saying one day a device will do for newspapers what the iPod has done for music. With iPhones and Kindles we are edging nearer, but there’s still a way to go.

It’s going to happen. But not this year.

One day a device will do for newspapers what the iPod did for music. I haven’t seen it yet.

Mark Fletcher at the excellent Australian Newsagency Blog does a great job of warning people in his industry about the disruption they face from digital technologies. In this post he points to a ComputerWorld story about the future of ePaper, which the author says is “just around the corner”.

E-paper has potential. It could disrupt publishing business models which are already under attack from the internet. Australian, and other, newsagents need to keep an eye on how publishing technologies develop.

Just as iTunes killed off record shops, a newspaper and magazine equivalent could reduce newsagencies to selling lottery tickets and bus cards.

It threatens everyone working in newspapers, magazines, books, related businesses and their associated food chains.

“Just around the corner” – yeah right

Yet I question whether ePaper is “just around the corner”. Claims like that can never be taken seriously until practical products hit the market.

Moreover, I question whether this kind of ePaper is the most pressing threat.

I’ve been  writing about technology since 1980. In that year I saw my first voice recognition system and the first example of what are now called electronic books.

The proud makers of the 1981 voice recognition device told me the hardware would be “ready for prime time” within two years and keyboards would quickly be a thing of the past. In 2008 voice recognition technology is still around two years away from prime time.

Likewise, in 1981 electronic book makers were confidently predicting we’d soon be cuddling up at night with their hardware. It’s 2008 and to date I still haven’t seen anything as impressive or as easy to read as ink stamped or squirted on crushed, dead trees.

One day we may get there – not yet.

In the meantime, the internet continues to build momentum delivering news and other information to desktops, laptops and handheld devices like Apple’s iPod-derived iPhone. Although none of these are anything like as satisfactory an as paper, people can and do use them to read news.