A profitable Apple subsidiary you've never heard of is rebranding to its classic name of Claris as it helps companies build the tools millennials need to do their jobs
- FileMaker, the Apple company that offers software tools for organizing data and managing online projects, is now known as Claris, which is the firm's previous name.
- Claris CEO Brad Freitag said the company is geared to small and medium sized businesses, particularly those have hired young "digital natives" who are very comfortable using technology for work.
- Claris also just acquired a small startup, Stamplay, which helps users connect apps to third-party platforms.
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FileMaker, the little-known Apple subsidiary, just got a new name. Well, it's actually its old one: Claris.
That's what the suite of Apple Mac computer applications, such as MacWrite and MacPaint, was called in the 1980s.
"We wanted to restore the Claris brand," Brad Freitag, who took over as CEO earlier this year, told Business Insider. "We wanted to celebrate our legacy."
That legacy goes back to 1984, and the early days of the original Apple Macintosh PC: Allegedly, outside developers were jealous that built-in tools like MacWrite and MacPaint were so good, Macintosh users didn't want or need anybody else's software.
And so, Apple placed those products and a handful of others, including Microsoft Office competitor AppleWorks, under the umbrella of Claris, a new subsidiary. The idea was ostensibly to maintain the illusion that Apple wasn't competing directly with its community of developers.
Since then, Claris has stuck around as a wholly-owned Apple subsidiary - though it quietly changed its name to FileMaker, after its most popular product, in 1998, around the same time that Steve Jobs returned to preside over the Silicon Valley icon's dramatic transformation into a mobile tech powerhouse.
Claris is not a prominent part of Apple's business, listed together with the company's services revenue, which made up roughly 20% of total revenue in the July quarter. Claris says it has recorded more than 80 consecutive profitable quarters.
The business offers easy-to-use tools for organizing data and managing online projects. It's been a particularly big hit with small and medium sized businesses looking to embrace technology but don't have the budget for expensive gear or systems. Claris is known for making software tools that don't require technical skills to use.
But in an interesting twist, Claris is becoming even more popular popular with businesses, including mom and pop shops, that have encountered what Freitag described as "a very impatient and capable workforce."
"In many cases, they're digital natives who are entering the workforce recognizing there's a better way" to do things at the firms they joined, he said.
"Part of it is a comfort level and part of it is a practical attitude" in which these young workers look at the tools and systems available and say, "this doesn't make sense," Freitag said. "In a way, many of us who've been in the workforce for a long time have just accepted this is reality. They don't look at it that way."
Claris is also looking to address the technology needs of small businesses, many of which "simply can't afford the time and talent required to use many of the enterprise solutions on the market today," the company said.
Freitag calls Claris the "light" version of Oracle, IBM and SAP, referring to the makers of enterprise software applications. Many small businesses have already taken steps to go paperless, but there are now many more affordable tools that are available to them, Freitag said.
Claris now has 50,000 customers, more than half of them small businesses. The company said its products are also widely used in K-12 school systems and universities and in individual departments of big corporations, including Gap, Nike, America Express and Clorox.
Claris, which has about 300 employees, is supported by a community of 50,000 developers, which the company hopes to grow to 150,000 in two to three years.
As part of that strategy Claris actually just bought a small 5-person startup called Stamplay which helps users connect apps to third-party platforms such as Salesforce, Dropbox or Slack. Claris says it also hopes to integrate new technologies, such as AI, into the platform.
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