Great questions. I love the FileMaker platform. However that's not a good way to make business decisions. Your final question is one that really interests me. "is this a growing platform?" I was trying to find information on the FileMaker website about this very point, but was not able to find much. If anyone knows if there are annual reports that list such information I'm sure there would be a lot of interest. I'm guessing that FM Inc being a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple means that they don't have shareholders and therefore don't have to issue separate annual reports.
I found a 2015 fact sheet from FileMaker in the link below. It says over 20 million copies delivered. I wonder if this is still valid because the other link is from 2013.
Hi Don. I had seen the fact sheet but not that other sales information webpage. That would seem to indicate that FileMaker has a relatively stable customer base. Very roughly speaking, it seems that sales/product shipped have been around 1 million for a number of years, so customers who drop off by not buying later versions are being replaced with new customers.
This has been discussed before but new insights are always welcome:
I've been a FM developer for about twenty years, and I "hung out my shingle" to do this full time about 16 years ago. I've done custom FM development pretty exclusively for all that time. For most of that time, I didn't even have two clients in the same industry. Although that's changed, I still don't have any clients using identical solutions, so the solutions aren't "pre-made".
I have spent a lot of time developing and refining our foundation solution ("xBase", which everyone's probably tired of hearing about ) which keeps us from having to reinvent the wheel for the common business stuff (managing contacts, activities, etc.), but I'd still classify us as custom developers.
I've been a member of the FBA (and prior to that, FSA) for most of the time I've had my shingle out. It's been a consistent and frequent source of leads. While we look for leads via other channels, we get our best qualified leads from the pool of people who have already bought, or are considering buying, FileMaker. People who come to us via that channel are already interested in tracking data in a reliable but flexible way. Leads we get via other channels first have to be educated about the benefits of wrangling their data, streamlining their processes and propagating best practices. FileMaker's customer base tends to already at least recognize that those things are valuable, whereas other leads tend to still be trying to see that pattern in their requirements.
As far as the platform, I contend that it's the best way to quickly wrangle data and use it to make business decisions, recognize and enforce best practices, and streamline workflow. We get a lot of clients who have spent months (or years!) trying to do the same things with other products, and we get the same objectives done in a mere fraction of the time. I'm well aware of the power and scalability of other, more "conventional" technologies like SQL and web languages, but until I see someone doing what we do for the same types of clients with something even approaching the same ease, I'll stick with FM. I still end up working with other technologies as they relate to FM, but I simply can't get as much done, as quickly, without FM at the hub.
As far as a "growing platform", I can definitely say that the product itself has matured tremendously in the time I've been using it (since version 2). Whether it's growing in market share is important to me, of course, since the more people who become FM's customer base, the more qualified leads I get. I'd surely like to hear "FileWhat?" less often, of course, and I think FM is continuing to expand its recognition in the market. I think that part is more about marketing than merit.
However, I think that even if no one else on the planet knew what FM was, they'd be able to see what we can do with it, so as long as FM's overall business isn't in seriously dire straits, I feel secure. I'd rather be delivering value using the most effective software for the job than using the best known, if I have to choose.
FM is a great problem solving tool. Everything I do is custom and FM is not the only thing I do. I have found the best solutions and relationships come from spending a day or two at a business seeing what they do and how they do it. There are always things you will see that they might not have realized can be helped along by FM. Take an interest in their business and this goes a long way. There are a lot of options out there. I have been building up clients slowly and they are all happy thus far.
I'd rather be delivering value using the most effective software for the job than using the best known, if I have to choose.
That should always be the ideal choice. However you simply can not be proficient in every single platform to tackle every project in the most efficient way. That means that you have to choose what platform you can want to become proficient and expert in. You can only have one or two at most. And that means that you sometimes will have to tell your client: my expertise and chosen platform(s) are not the best fit for your project.
The worst thing that can happen is the "if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" effect.
You are at a fork in the road so either:
- you want to be become expert in FM and you will set out to find project that will fit FM's sweet spot
- or you already have projects and markets in mind and then you need to figure out what platform is best suited for that, and it may not be FM (just be open for that)
The market for good FM projects is certainly big enough, many of us here have been making our living from it for the past 20-30 years.
Switching platfoms along the way is entirely doable, but comes at a price. It simply takes time and dedication to become proficient. 10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell. Which is about 4-5 years of full-time effort. So picking something that you feel good about and makes you happy in the morning when you set off for work certainly helps.
I've been an inhouse developer for ages then worked at a software house. In Feb this year I started my own business and for me I have found the following
- Work is very diverse, from 'home' applications to large organisations
- Work is new databases, fixing / enhancing current databases and some IT work setting up servers and repairing databases
- Work is really fun!
- Everyone comments how happy they are with the result and I totally blame that on Filemaker. (I'm not blowing my own trumpet, they are happy with other developers work and their own work also).
I'm only doing it as my own business because I have been developing in Filemaker for 15 years already...