Apple's Claris restructures, plans layoffs

Apple Computer Inc. confirmed plans Tuesday to gut its Claris software unit.

Apple Computer Inc. confirmed plans Tuesday to gut its Claris software unit.

The company said it would restructure to focus on its FileMaker Pro line of database software and would lay off 300 employees. Apple (AAPL) said under the restructuring, Claris would change its name to FileMaker Inc. and divest itself of products other than the FileMaker Pro line.

The move follows a report earlier Tuesday that first broke the news.

In a PR statement, Apple said that, beginning Feb. 1, it will distribute all Apple-branded software, including its MAC OS 8 operating system, in the United States. Apple will develop, distribute, and support the ClarisWorks integrated productivity software.

Apple reportedly has been shopping around FileMaker for several months. Sources said the cross-platform software was offered to Microsoft Corp. and a deal was turned down. Other reports included Oracle Corp. as a candidate to take over the database.

Founded in 1987 as an Apple software subsidiary, Claris has had a back-and-forth history in its relationship with its corporate parent. Executives planned to take Claris public in 1990, but the effort was halted by Apple.

Claris has always supported Apple's bottom line. In October, the company reported sales of $91.1 million for its 1997 fourth fiscal quarter as well as record revenues for the year.

FileMaker Pro is the most popular database software for the Macintosh and is the second most popular stand-alone database software for Windows, Apple said.

Sales of the FileMaker Pro line were $73 million in fiscal 1997 and $24 million in the most recent quarter, which ended Dec. 26. Apple said sales of the Windows versions more than tripled during the past two years to $28 million from $9 million and grew 77 percent during the most recent quarter over the same quarter a year ago.

"As FileMaker Inc., we can now focus all our energies on our very successful FileMaker business," said Dominique Goupil, Claris president. "We are totally committed to growing this business dramatically during the coming year."

MacWeek and Reuters contributed to this report.