No money in Runtime for FMI?  Possible Solution:  FM App Store.

Idea created by DavidThorp on Jun 23, 2018



    In May 2015 with FM 14's release, FMI announced they're "deprecating" FileMaker Runtime.  They have assured us that they're not going to kill it without some kind of replacement (see here among other places).  However, it's demise is presumably coming and in the meantime it's slowly being crippled (see here - doesn't support Save/Send as PDF, Charts, ExecuteSQL, JSON functions, cURL options, UniqueValues, SortValues, etc.).  That's a problem - not just in the future but now while they're crippling it.



    Why?  (Speculation)


    There are a lot of uses for FM Runtimes.  A lot of those are discussed,

    here: Runtime deprecated - this is the end for many business models and solutions

    here: Runtime - Instead of calling it deprecated, make it a Unique selling point for FMPA

    here: Please Cancel Runtime Sabotage

    and a few other places.


    The biggest two that I see are:

    1. Free downloadable demo for large high-cost vertical solutions.
    2. Small downloadable low-cost single user vertical solutions.


    I see no sense in FMI killing Runtime when it comes to number 1.  I've worked with a company that sells a vertical solution to a specific market and it's the best solution in that market.  The install base among all the customers is over 50 FMSs and over 2000 FMPs over three continents.  Just ball-parking that's something like a $250K - $500K /year in annual FMP & FMS licences.  And that company is one of hundreds (?) like it.  They rely on downloadable free demos of their products for potential customers to take them seriously.  If FMI kills and/or continues to cripple Runtime without a suitable replacement, some of these companies will just give up on the FM platform and rebuild their solutions in something else (there are some very viable options).  That's 10's of millions dollars per year of lost sales and revenue for FMI.


    With number 2 above, it's some FM Devs' bread and butter, and slowly crippling the runtime is slowly killing their businesses, which sucks.  Although FMI gets nothing out of those (except perhaps some small exposure, but the audience of that exposure isn't FMI's potential customers), when they really should get something.  But what?  Perhaps that's not lost revenue, but it's definitely lost loyalty.  That costs too.


    Suggestions for how FMI might monetize Runtime by charging for it one way or another, have the issue of how do they price it?  Price it too high it kills profit for the devs or if they build the cost into their solution it prices their solution out of the market.   Price it too low to overcome that and then it's not worth enough to FMI.  Price it at a percentage of the developers' price for their "app" is a good solution but impossible to manage or enforce.  Until now...





    The same thing Apple (and Microsoft and others) have done:  FileMaker App Store.


    Developers in both the above camps (and all the other uses of FM Runtime too) can offer their solutions on this store, and FMI gets a percentage.  Solutions get delivered, everyone gets paid for their work, including us developers and FMI.


    [And hey, FMI is a subsidiary of Apple, so use all the same code and infrastructure.  Or alternatively it could be a separate section on the iOS and Mac App stores - a section where the percentage cut goes to the FMI subsidiary part of Apple - but then that might create issues for Windows, so perhaps a separate store is better.]



    How it could all work


    Short version:

    • Bound runtime solutions (like we have now in Runtime for desktop) for both desktop and mobile.
    • Single user only (because it's for the above two groups of developers primarily and there's no fair way to network these).
    • Sellable only through this new FileMaker App Store (if the app didn't come from the store it won't run)
    • An API for us to hook into so we can almost transparently sell from our own sites but it still goes through the FM App Store behind the scenes.
    • FMI gets a percentage of the sale (same as Apple).  Maybe not as much as 30%.  Negotiable


    If you read that and want to vote this down, I just ask you please to read the details below first to be sure you understand what you're down voting.


    Otherwise you can skip the rest of this section if the mechanics don't interest you. ;-) 


    It could all work very similar to the current Apple stores (Mac and iOS app stores, iTunes store, etc) and Microsoft store, etc.  Users need a FileMaker Id to use it (same as Apple Id required for the Mac and iOS app stores).  Because FMI is a subsidiary of Apple, maybe users with an Apple Id could use that without having to create a separate one if they want.


    Customers log in with that and they can "Get" (free) and "Buy" (paid) the apps.


    On desktop what they get is effectively what is currently the Runtime with its bound FM files (but with all run-able features, not crippled by lack of Charts, JSON, etc).  The files are bound to that app and the app can open only those files.  Ideally package the files inside the app somehow so that it's all in one file.  This could all be created by FMPA just as it is now.


    Then... on iOS do exactly the same thing:  Note a distinction I'm making here.  I'm not proposing that iOS apps for the FileMaker App Store can only be built with the iOS SDK.  The iOS SDK should continue to do exactly what it does - build native apps for the iOS app store (and I'd argue for a desktop version of the same thing but that's another topic).  But an iOS app for the FileMaker app store is something that would be created by FMPA, just like FMPA currently does with desktop Runtimes.


    The result would be simply a limited/stripped down FMGo (same as FM Runtime on desktop is a stripped down FMP/A) bound to only the FM files it's being distributed with (it can't open any other FM files), and with the files packaged into the app somehow so that it all appears as one to download to the users device.  FMPA can still access and edit the files just like it can now with FM Desktop Runtime files.


    These apps should only be able to be distributed either direct from the FM App Store, or through an API that hooks into the FM App Store from our (developers') websites, does the purchase (or "Get" in the case of free ones) and keeps the user on the our sites if that's what the developer wants.


    In both cases (desktop and mobile) have the app linked to an Apple Id/FM Id that it can only get from being downloaded from the FM app store.  Copy the app to another computer/device not linked to that Apple/FM Id and you can't open it, same way you can't open Mac/iOS apps now on a device not linked to that Apple Id.  This way it's built in copy protection for us developers, and FMI always get their percentage - a percentage that's appropriate for the price of the app, without screwing the developers' pricing.  FMI's percentage would ideally be less than Apple's percentage for apps on the Apple app stores, but it certainly shouldn't be any more than that.


    In both cases (desktop and mobile) the apps should be single user only, just as FM Runtime is now.  I don't know of any developers trying or reasonably expecting to be able to distribute runtime only networked apps.  Isn't possible anyway as far as I'm aware, and it just doesn't make sense, since the files for the "app" have to be hosted on FMS and so in that case can't be bundled with the app.


    [Perhaps one day FMI could build a version of FMS that could be downloaded and run just like most/all app store apps, and perhaps it could be made so developers can offer networkable apps on the app store.  This could be a bunch of files packaged in with a limited/stripped down copy of FMS that can be installed on a server machine and then copies of FMPA can connect to it.]


    As an aside, I think all the above could enable the product line to be revamped and simplified.  But that's for another idea/post.





    • Has the potential to simplify FM's product line, and licensing (currently a bit of a nightmare).
    • Provides a method of monetizing for FMI, current uses of FM Runtime (on desktop), without under-pricing it for FMI, while also not pricing it out of the market for small vertical solutions.
    • Provides that exact same solution (for developers and for FMI) for iOS as well.
    • Provides a unified distribution process for FM "custom apps", which will be a huge improvement for a lot of developers.  And their customers.
    • Gives small FM app developers a sustainable business model without hurting FMI's income.
    • Gives all FM solution developers a means of distributing free demos on both desktop and iOS.
    • Is consistent with FMI's new marketing direction - describing the stuff we build with FMP/A as "custom apps" instead of "FileMaker solutions" or all the other terms we've used in the past.
    • Other benefits.



    Please:  to anyone who wants to vote this down because it doesn't give you what you want for free, please come back to reality: understand FMI won't implement that, so please don't spoil a potential solution they might implement, for the rest of us.


    We have multiple ideas posted here already that propose solutions that don't compensate FMI enough for their work in building it.  Sure, those ideas get lots of upvotes, but FMI won't work for free (and they shouldn't have to).


    I don't propose this idea as the only - or even the best - solution, but one option that I think would certainly work.  Anyone who disagrees, feel free to post other ideas, as long as they do involve compensation for FMI (not because I'm a suck-up but because I'm just pretty sure they won't give us any option that doesn't meet that requirement). 


    Even if this isn't the answer, what if we can reach some consensus on a solution that gives us what we need, while also adequately compensating FMI for their work in building it?