FileMaker 15 Platform Provides Less ROI

FileMaker 15 was released last week. The update has caused quite a bit disruption in the FileMaker Community. FileMaker 15 adds some features along with a new licensing method that is extremely confusing to the developer community.
New Features

The new set of features primary focuses on FileMaker Go and FileMaker Server Security. All in all, there isn't that much new:
  • FileMaker Go - Touch ID, 3D Touch, App Extensions, iBeacon.
  • FileMaker WebDirect - Updated to work with Phone and Tablet web browsers.
  • FileMaker Server - ESS sources for PostgresSQL & DB2, more SSL certificates and sources, top call stats logging, portals download in separate threads.
  • FileMaker Pro - Undo in scripting, error highlighting, new starter solutions, web based help, update status toolbar, edit field that shows bullets, warnings when the SSL certificates have issues.

As you can see from that list, FileMaker Go and Filemaker Server were the focus. FileMaker Pro and WebDirect had the least love.

Aggressive Licensing Changes

The licensing was the biggest change in the FileMaker 15 now called "FileMaker Licensing for Teams" ( FLT ). The idea, I think, was to make the licensing focused more on the user rather than on the product. With FLT, you purchase FileMaker User Connections ( FUC ) in packs of five so most people must purchase more than they need as they cannot be purchased one at a time. At first, the FUCs seem to be like version 14's Concurrent Connections ( Con-Conns ), but there is a very important difference. In the FileMaker Community from Steve Romig who works for FileMaker. Someone asked: If you have a team where three people work on Monday and three different people work on Tuesday, how is the licensing different. Steve said that with Con-Conns, you would need a 5 pack since less than 5 people would be working at any one time. With FUCs, you would need a 10 pack since you have 6 total people. The new FileMaker 15 licensing now prevents hosting companies from offering shared hosting. Shared hosting is where the hosting company sets up a server and puts FileMaker databases on it from multiple customers, also called multi-tenancy. FileMaker says they are disallowing shared hosting due to security concerns but they are also benefiting on a large scale by requiring that each customer have their own server.

This is the third increase in pricing since FileMaker 12. FileMaker 13 introduced WebDirect which was to replace Instant Web Publishing ( IWP ). FileMaker 12 web connections were about $40 per user, but FileMaker 13 introduced Con-Conns at $180 per user. FileMaker 14 came out and Con-Conns went up to $280 per user. Now with FileMaker 15, it requires you to purchase more connections that with versions 13 and 14.

It's a real shame. I love using FileMaker and building solutions to solve problems, but at some point it's just not worth using due to the costs.

Escape Velocity

I feel very lucky. Over a year ago, I started look around at other solutions around the same time as my friend, Tim Dietrich who posted about leaving FileMaker. Tim also posted about FileMaker 15. Tim and I saw changes occurring with the FileMaker platform and needed to find another platform. FileMaker was just getting expensive, there were many bugs, and FileMaker Inc would not discuss their Road Map or why the pricing was going up so much. We literally got the silent treatment.

One thing we knew is that the cost of FileMaker was going up with no signs of going back down. The folks that use the solutions we wrote had no choice to pay what FileMaker was demanding. The cost of FileMaker was so high that it started to become affordable to rewrite the solutions using another platform.

Looking at Xojo

I used Xojo for years to create shareware apps and a few apps for clients. Our most widely used application was the Training CDROM interface for MacAcademy & WindowsAcademy which was used on all the CDROMs they produced. So I had prior history using Xojo. Tim Dietrich wrote a post about the alternatives to FileMaker that he looked into. We talked a lot about it and Tim ended up coming to the conclusion that Xojo was a great choice.

Using Xojo isn't for everyone. If you see yourself as a developer or programmer, then you'll love Xojo. Xojo offers the ability to create Desktop, Web, and iOS apps. Desktop and Web apps can be built for Mac, Windows, and Linux. While Web apps run on those operating systems, users access them using a web browser which makes deployment extremely easy.

Rising FileMaker Costs Diminish Its Return on Investment

Developing with Xojo requires writing much more code than with FileMaker. As an example, I can create a solution in FileMaker in about 25% of the time than with Xojo. That means that it could cost four times as much in development hours to develop using Xojo. However, when we develop solutions only part of the cost is the development time as there is a cost to the software platform. Xojo's licensing is developer based where each developer pays and users of the app pay nothing to Xojo. FileMaker's licensing is user based where the developer and every single user must pay. This means that you need to consider the cost of development and the cost of licensing together. Developing with FileMaker was an easy choice back when FileMaker was affordable along with its quick development. Now that the cost of FileMaker is so high, the licensing cost plus the low cost of development results in a much higher cost. This makes Xojo much more attractive as all that extra code we need to write becomes financially easier since the cost of Xojo licensing is low. And I can reuse all that Xojo code too…

Leaving FileMaker Behind

Our clients either have FileMaker 'Perpetual' or 'Annual' licenses. Perpetual is when you pay for the software up front and not have to pay anything later unless you want to upgrade. Annual is when you pay per year, but if you stop paying you must uninstall everything as your license ends when the payments stop. Our clients that use Perpetual licensing are in a better position than those who use Annual licensing. Perpetual users are able to save the money that would have to pay every year and invest that in new development in order to move to another platform like Xojo. Those on Annual licensing aren't so lucky as they must keep making the annual payments and also fund new development. That makes it harder to leave FileMaker, but since Xojo's licensing is so attractive there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Moving Forward

We have no plans for any new FileMaker development, but we're going to keep helping our our clients who use FileMaker. We don't suggest anyone move to Xojo without considering the costs, but when it's time to replace an aging solution, we'll highly suggest Xojo. We also suggest not upgrading to FileMaker 15 due to the aggressive changes in costs.

We are going to offer coaching to other FileMaker developers who might need some help with FileMaker or interested in making the move to Xojo.

We're going to Xojo's XDC ( Developer Conference ) this October and will be speaking about our Xanadu project. Xanadu is reusable code to make developing Xojo code a bit like FileMaker. There is still code to write, but a lot less.

If you have any questions or comments, we'd be glad to hear from you.