FileMaker has been around for years, but it could be part of your future mobile app strategy

If you’re looking at different ways to get mobile apps, why not look at FileMaker, too? A new version is out and has plenty of mobile features.

FileMaker 15 is out today. FileMaker is targeted at small businesses and workgroups, and it’s been around forever; however its concept fits perfectly with today’s world of rapid mobile app development solutions. Is it time to consider it for your mobility projects? Let’s take a look.

What is FileMaker?

If you’re not familiar with FileMaker, it consists of a relational database (FileMaker Server) and customizable clients for Windows, Mac, web, and iOS. It’s literally been around since the 80s, and is subsidiary of Apple.

FileMaker is made so that non-technical folks can use it build apps—the database can run on a Mac desktop, and apps can be created by using a drag and drop wysiwyg editor that’s built into the desktop client (FileMaker Pro).

There are features for IT, too. FileMaker can use Active Directory or Open Directory to manage and authenticate users, and FileMaker Server can also run on Windows Server. Alternatively, FileMaker can use external SQL databases including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL. The FileMaker 15 release adds support for DB2 and PostgreSQL.

Mobile capabilities and new features

FileMaker has actually had iOS clients since 2010 (FileMaker Go), and they support all sorts of device frameworks like camera and photos, audio and video, barcode and QR code scanning, GPS, printing, and so on. Today’s release adds support for TouchID, App Extensions, iBeacons, and 3D Touch. The one thing that it doesn’t support is notifications, but as a workaround you could use scripts to send users emails or text messages.

FileMaker doesn’t have a native Android client, but as of today’s release the HTML5 client (FileMaker WebDirect) now supports phone-sized devices. (WebDirect came out in 2013, and added support for tablets—and therefore some Android support—in 2014.) WebDirect clients naturally don’t support as many local device frameworks as the native client, but as HTML5 apps they still support the basics like camera access.

FileMaker’s position in the landscape

For all the recent talk of MADP, RMAD, MBaaS, app transformation, and other ways to get enterprise apps, FileMaker should probably be part of the conversation, too.

Does it do everything you would need? Android support is better now, though the lack of a native client could be a sticking point. (On the other hand you could always use MDM, an enterprise app store, or an enterprise SSO portal app to provide easy access to the HTML5 client.)

We talk about how many mobile app projects are driven by business units and not IT, and FileMaker fits with that concept. In fact when I talked to Vin Addala, product manager for FileMaker, we talked a lot about scenarios where business units make apps on their own, and then later IT gets involved to provide official support. So what do you think?

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