Filemaker Eyes Mobile SMBs With Go Updates

iPhone and iPad versions of the popular desktop database software target users frustrated by a lack of mature business apps and those lacking development resources to build applications themselves.
Filemaker Go 1.2 Expands iOS Feature Set
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Slideshow: Filemaker Go 1.2 Expands iOS Feature Set
Filemaker didn't develop the latest updates to its Go applications for iPhone and iPad strictly for small and midsize business users, but the vendor may be increasing its appeal to mobile SMBs in the process.

The Apple subsidiary recently added Filemaker Charts support, digital signature capture, and AirPrint functionality with Go 1.2, as well as improved PDF creation. Filemaker Go's core audience is comprised of iOS mobile users within the desktop database software's wider universe. But the ability to take much of the Filemaker engine's functionality and customization on the road--with little needed in the way of development expertise--should attract SMBs, particularly those riding high on the mobility wave.

Smaller companies aren't new on Filemaker's radar. Ryan Rosenberg, VP of marketing and services at Filemaker, estimated that between 40% and 50% of the software provider's current customers are small businesses. "That's very much our home turf," Rosenberg said in an interview.

Rosenberg notes that the number one self-selected category among prospects who download a trial version of the desktop Filemaker Pro application is "business owner"--it doubles any other category. "We get a lot of people who are not developers creating solutions in Filemaker," Rosenberg said. He added that Filemaker is seeing an uptick in the number of new customers approaching the vendor about Go who aren't existing Filemaker Pro users. Rosenberg wasn't able to quantify the trend, but said that iOS is increasingly showing up as a catalyst when he surveys customers on what attracted them to Filemaker.

With the mobility trend in bloom, the Filemaker Go apps would appear to appeal especially to users either frustrated by a lack of mature business apps or those with no development resources to build applications themselves. Both of those challenges are familiar to SMBs. As smartphones and tablets become increasingly common in smaller company settings, the demand for software providers to deliver battle-tested apps will spike, too.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa thinks the latest version of Go brings it "closer and closer to desktop-level capabilities," noting that Filemaker appears to be adding new functionality to its mobile apps at a rapid clip. "This is going to be very appealing to the large base of existing Filemaker users and developers to mobilize their apps, but also to potentially make inroads into the small company space as they leverage mobile at much lower development costs," Hilwa said via email.

Filemaker Go 1.2 is available free to existing users. For new customers, the apps should fit all but the smallest of business budgets: Go for iPhone runs $19.99 and Go for iPad is $39.99.

While Filemaker Go is tied to its namesake database platform--it's certainly not a catchall mobile development tool--it does serve the do-it-yourself ethic without busting budgets or schedules. Rosenberg notes that once a user builds something for Filemaker Go, it's available in Pro--and vice versa--without any additional effort. It also helps address a common hurdle for SMBs: Meeting a highly technical need without the required in-house expertise. For example, Filemaker Go enables two-way data traffic not just with Filemaker Pro databases, but from SQL sources, too.

"How many small business people can integrate with a SQL system, and how many have to do it? There's a big gap," Rosenberg said. "There's a bunch of people who need to develop for SQL integration who don't have the skill."