Maple 9 Puts Muscle in Business Analysis

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-09-15
 
 
 

With powerful and intuitive tools for business analysts, technical professionals, and math and science educators, Maple 9 lives up to its 20-year heritage of extending the frontiers of numeric and symbolic calculation.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Maple 9

Growing far beyond its 20-year-old roots as a symbolic-math computing tool, Maple 9 combines enhanced industrial-strength number- crunching power with streamlined ease-of-use aids. Features such as error analysis operations should bring it to the attention of enterprise users, despite its near-$2,000 price. For more information, go to www.maplesoft.com.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY GOOD
CAPABILITY GOOD
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY EXCELLENT
MANAGEABILITY EXCELLENT
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Convenient integration of numeric and symbolic computation, technical graphics, and programming power in a unified environment; available on a wide range of platforms.
  • CON: Peak performance demands familiarity with low-level options; documentation is less extensive than advanced users might expect and prefer.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    The MathWorks Matlab 6.5 Wolfram Researchs Mathematica 5.0
    For some prospective buyers, the $1,795 products ease of learning and use will give it the edge over high-level (and comparably priced) competitors such as Mathematica 5.0 from

    Wolfram Research Inc. At the same time, Maple 9s open programming interfaces and code-generation capabilities (extended in this release to in- tegrate with both The MathWorks Inc.s Matlab and Microsoft Corp.s Visual Basic) should put Maple 9 on the radar of enterprise application developers and engineers who might not have previously looked at this genre of product.

    Released at the end of June by the Maplesoft division of Waterloo Maple Inc., Maple 9 supports Windows 98, NT 4 and later; Mac OS X 10.2.3 and later; and most distributions of Linux and Unix. eWEEK Labs installed and tested the product on a Macintosh G4 PowerBook with OS X 10.2.6 and 640MB of RAM, comfortably exceeding recommended memory and enabling side-by-side trials against the comparably resource-intensive Mathematica. (For a review of Mathematica 5.0, go to www.eWEEK.com/labslinks.)

    We found Maple 9 offered a stick-shift feel, compared with Mathematicas invitation to just put its engine in drive and let it handle the low-level details. For example, we began tests of Maple 9 with the same matrix multiplication task (two 1,000-by-1,000 arrays of floating-point values) that we benchmarked in our review of Mathematica 5; when we accepted Maple 9s defaults of a readable/writable array of unspecified data type, we found it took three to four times as long as Mathematica to perform that computation.

    However, when we used Maple 9s options to declare the array read-only after initialization and specified a floating-point storage format, the two products benchmark times were nearly identical.

    Maple 9s manuals are more slender than Mathematicas, but it was easy to find what we needed in Maple 9s more streamlined interactive help browser. Novices can learn in an orderly fashion by browsing by topic, while those with experience using similar tools will quickly get their bearings with a keyword-search approach. The help systems explanations and examples are adequate, although not as extensive or as well presented as Mathematicas.

    We felt especially compelled to check out Maple 9 when we heard about its new error analysis functions, which enable calculations using uncertain quantities to propagate those errors through to the results (see screen). We found a useful but somewhat limited tool kit, but nonetheless a solid foundation that we could readily extend using other Maple facilities to answer key business questions.

    Maple 9s interactive plotting tools are at least as accessible and agile as those in Mathematica or in Microsofts Excel, with particular strength in easily combining different plot types on a single set of axes to create a distinctive (and, in the right hands, highly effective) presentation.

    Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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