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So each user will have their own instance of the catalog running locally? Is the catalog static? How would you update the catalog in the future?
If the app is really only going to run locally then I would stick with XML. XML is certainly searchable.
As for .NET versus Flash, I think that it really depends on which programming language you prefer. If you prefer ActionScript, then I would look into making the app using Flash/Flex and Zinc. If you prefer C# or C++, then go with .NET.
You could contact Right Hemishpere (www.righthemisphere.com). They're in the process of getting ready to release a 3D Part Catalog solution that does what you're looking for. Nice thing is the 3D part views are stored in PDF, so you search for the part, and then download the PDF which contains the view and all the metadata.
PC and PDA applications have very different requirements.
A PC has the memory and storage to maintain a local data repository, and can run disconnected. A PDA probably will not.
Disconnected operation for data driven applications is problematic.
There a huge number of variables to consider here. Do consider buying this before you set out to build it.
Thank you for your advice. It is greatly appreciated. I will look into the righthemisphere app. you mentioned ReLLiK75. I took a preliminary look at some of their tech apps and they look fairly close to what I am interested in. It would be great if we could just purchase something with minimal development work (perfect world).
As for the PDA option, yes that will be quite a challenge for sure. We have had success with a .NET app running an SQL database off a 1Gig mini-SD card, but the limitations are still substantial.
Catalog maintenance would need to happen periodically, maybe twice a year since it will not change much. Updates would be available online for download or email. One of the reasons we were looking at our own in house development is because we need to be able to make changes and update without going to the vendor. Experience has shown that to be a never ending money pit.
Nah, man "money pit" is the wrong attitude. Instead say, "managable expenditure". It is all a matter of viewpoint.
Seriously, though creating a production-level software application from scratch is a very risky undertaking. You might end up with a "money black hole". Thats worse than a money pit because nothing ever comes out of a black hole.
Good luck, and if you do decide to develop it in-house in Flex, we are here to help.