Interested in developing a mobile application that doesn't need to be distributed through some massive consumer push on an application store?
Filemaker, a software subsidiary of Apple, is positioning its Filemaker database development platform as another option for doing this.
And it offers plenty of great examples of small businesses that have benefited, such as Sea Breeze Farm, an organic animal farm using iPad apps internally to track key business functions such as inventory, and the aging processes for cheeses and wine.
"We have to track production for internal and regulatory purposes, constantly logging temperatures, refrigeration times, ingredients, recipes and weights," said George Page, the farm's owner. "We need to do it in a tiny space and on a system that we can keep clean instead of running the risk of getting food stuck in a keyboard."
FileMaker makes sense as an option for small businesses that already use the database management software to automate business processes and that want to create apps for internal use or for use on in-store kiosks, said Ryan Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and services for FileMaker.
"There are a lot of scenarios where people want to use mobile apps for their own business," he said.
That includes scenarios like the one at Sea Breeze Farm near Seattle, which is automating past manual processes, or small stores that might want to showcase products or promotions on an in-store kiosk.
It's relatively to easy to design a mobile version of applications using FileMaker Pro, which includes templates to help resize existing apps so that they can be accessed on either an iPhone or an iPad, Rosenberg said.
You can also adjust the fonts or increase the size of selection boxes, so that the app works better with a touch screen interface.
Using FileMaker Pro as the development platform, the apps can be distributed via email and copied into iTunes; they run on either mobile platform using FileMaker Go, a free mobile app.
But there's also another distribution scenario for small businesses that don't want to have to worry about whether or not information or prices reflected a mobile application is in synch with a desktop one – invest in an edition of FileMaker Server, which will ensure that mobile apps are updated automatically.
That's important in scenarios where pricing information or inventory information might be changing frequently through updates in a FileMaker desktop edition (the application runs on both Macintosh and Windows).
That costs more, though. A basic edition of FileMaker Pro lists for $300 per seat, while the server edition is around $999.