RealTime IT News

FileMaker Adds Task-Based Products

FileMaker has made its name as a low-cost, easy-to-use app that lets individuals build databases their way.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apple Computer , often sneaks into the enterprise in the coat pockets and backpacks of employees, where it's made a home serving teams and workgroups. With the release of FileMaker Applications, announced Wednesday, it hopes to expand its presence in the corporate environment. The first two Applications, FileMaker Meetings and FileMaker Recruiter, are designed to provide specific function sets right out of the box.

The flagship product, FileMaker Pro 6, is popular with people interested in solving their own problems, said John Dasher, product manager, FileMaker Applications.

"Recently, we've seen a class of customers who recognize the product and would like to use it, but don't have the time to invest in developing their own databases and don't want to go to the expense of hiring a developer," Dasher told internetnews.com.

"Individual sales was how FileMaker got their start," META Group analyst David Folger told InternetNews.com. "More and more, they're expanding into more complex applications, beyond individuals into workgroups. They're adding more and more features to make it more manageable and useful."

FileMaker Meetings is a meeting-management application that automates creating an agenda, managing the meeting itself, taking and distributing meeting notes, and tracking action items and deadlines. It includes an e-mail template engine that dynamically pulls data out of the database and sends it through the e-mail client so that, for example, an agenda can be quickly sent to all invitees. FileMaker Recruiter lets professional recruiters manage searches, identify and track candidates, and communicate with clients and hiring managers. The company says the applications are ready to go out of the box or customers can customize them. Both require a copy of FileMaker Pro 6 running as well.

FileMaker competes directly with Microsoft Access. Dasher said the company has three goals for the new Applications line, which it plans to grow to five products by the end of the calendar year. It wants to drive FileMaker upgrades, acquire new FileMaker customers and create new business opportunities for its third-party developer community.

Dasher said that FileMaker Applications, like the original database tool, will be positioned as "the right tool for the job. We're not going to be solving anyone's ERP problems," he said. "But I see our products running across the spectrum of companies."

It's a strategy that could work, according to META Group's Folger. "It's not going to get to the CIO level, but IT organizations might put it on the list of acceptable applications for people to use," he said.

With IT departments spread thin, Folger mused, they don't have the resources to build custom databases for individuals or work groups, so they have to try to encourage yet control application creation or installation by their users.

"FileMaker tries to make its application acceptable to IT as a tool that end users can build applications on," he said, "so IT won't say, 'Thou shalt not use FileMaker. Instead, they'll say 'We can't build it for you, so why don't you use FileMaker?'"