Oracle this week posted yet another release of its Application Express rapid-application development tool.
Application Express Release 3.0, available as a free download since Monday, helps VARs and integrators extend current Oracle 10g-based applications, the company said. It includes tools to help migrate users from Microsoft Access databases and brings enhanced printing capabilities. Users can now print to PDFs in addition to Word, Excel or HTML formats.
C2 Consulting, a Hingham, Mass.-based Oracle partner, uses Application Express Release 3.0 internally and with its customers. Chief among the improvements in the new release is PDF support, said Anton Nielsen, C2's president.
"Now we can directly print invoices to a PDF vs. having some third-party tool for that. And the charts before were fine, but the Flash charting is cool, much nicer. All of those improvements apply to our customers as well but on a larger scale," Nielsen said.
Oracle positions Application Express for intranets and for converting Access databases, "but the truth is, you can build truly robust, high-performance, large applications with it," he added.
The Access angle is also huge because many of those databases remain but tend not to be well-managed or well-maintained, according to Nielsen. "This lets you centralize a lot of that," he said.
Another East Coast Oracle reseller, who requested anonymity, said Application Express Release 3.0 helps streamline costs associated with packaging applications and makes them more available -- via a browser -- to end users.
"Everything is Web-based. The buzz for us is it consolidates desktop database and spreadsheet work that a lot of IT departments struggle with," he said. "They want to consolidate local users doing expense reporting, tracking serial numbers for products. That can get very costly."
Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, a Gilford, N.H.-based consultancy, said demand for fast development of data view-centric Web applications continues to grow.
"Many users want to quickly gain new or better views of data and data-based processes. These improved tools broaden the capabilities of developers that can turn those types of applications and views out," Gardner said. "Oracle recognizes that the better their users can access the data on their databases, the more valued those databases become. It's a win-win for Oracle and another way for users to gain more value from their data infrastructure investments."
Application Express 3.0 is the fifth major release of the product, once known as HTML DB.
Some industry observers say Application Express is a way for Oracle to promise more value to customers from its core database. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company is under price pressure from Microsoft SQL Server and open-source databases. Oracle recently changed its licensing in a way that makes its low-end Oracle 10g Standard Edition and Standard Edition One databases more price-competitive.