Bento [was] a database application for Mac OS X made by FileMaker Inc. Bento differs significantly from the company’s flagship product, FileMaker Pro, in that it relies heavily on templates and integration with other applications. By default, Bento’s data sources include Apple’s Address Book and iCal applications, and it can modify them directly.
Ever since its birth in November 2007, people have been comparing Bento to Apple’s iWork suite of productivity apps. Some even going as far as to suggest Bento’ was developed at Apple first. Although Bento was never developed at Apple, its similarities with Keynote, Pages, and Numbers were striking. In terms of design Bento was a world-class application, but it was never a world-class database.
Bento was missing many powerful database features like customizable reports, and programmable logic which motivate people to enter information into a database in the first place. At $39 Bento could not complete with dedicated solutions like Delicious Library that did one task well for less time and money than Bento required. Instead of being accepted as the database application “for the rest of us,” Bento became a modern day “HyperCard.” A fun toy that made building homespun solutions easy, but only if you overlooked the free alternatives already available.
Bento’s biggest competitors came from inside its own family. Apple the maker of dedicated database software such as iTunes, iPhoto, iCal and Address Book competed with Bento on the low-end. A ironic relationship considering Apple is the parent company of Bento developer FileMaker Inc. On the high-end Bento competed with FileMaker Pro, the product from which FileMaker Inc. is the namesake, and the reason why FileMaker Inc. has been profitable every quarter since its creation in 1998. Despite its potential as a new database solution written from the ground up to take advantage of the latest Apple technologies, Bento was never given the features it needed to fully compete with FileMaker Pro.1
Destined to die a cripple, who knows what would have become of Bento of it had been developed inside the Infinite Loop instead of across the street at FileMaker Inc. Would Bento have had the encouragement it needed to succeed FileMaker Pro the same way Final Cut Pro X succeeded Final Cut Pro 7? Or would it have ended up just another FileMaker Express?
Given that my sources say FileMaker Inc. makes most of its money selling FileMaker Pro Windows licenses these days, it would be a tough sell to convince FileMaker management to overthrow their golden goose with a Mac only app. ↩