Former type Subsidiary Industry Computer software Successor FileMaker Inc. Founded 1987 Defunct 1998 Headquarters Santa Clara, California Key people Bill Campbell, CEO and President; Yogen Dalal, VP R&D; John Zeisler, VP Marketing; Bruce Chizen VP Sales; Donna Dubinsky, VP International; Randy Komisar, VP, Corporate Counsel; Dan McCammon, CFO; Bill Joos, first VP Sales; Melissa Dyrdahl, first Director, Channel Marketing Products Claris Emailer, ClarisWorks, Claris CAD, ClarisDraw, Claris Resolve, Claris Impact, FileMaker, Claris Homepage, MacWrite, MacPaint, MacDraw, MacProject Employees 300 Parent Apple Computer Website www.claris.com (Wayback Machine archive)
Claris was a computer software developer formed as a spin-off from Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) in 1987. It was given the source code and copyrights to several programs that were owned by Apple, notably MacWrite and MacPaint, in order to separate Apple's application software activities from its hardware and operating systems activities.
In 1998 the company divested itself of all but its flagship product, and reformed as FileMaker Inc.
During the early days of the Macintosh computer, Apple shipped the machines with two basic programs, MacWrite and MacPaint, so that users would have a working machine "out of the box". However, this resulted in complaints from third party developers, who felt that these programs were good enough for so many users that there was little reason to buy something better.
Apple decided to allow the programs to "wither", so that the third party developers would have time to write suitable replacements. Unfortunately the developers didn't seem to hold up their end of the bargain, and it was some time before truly capable replacements like WriteNow came along. In the meantime users complained about the lack of upgrades, while the third party developers continued to complain about the possibility of upgrades.
Eventually Apple decided the only solution was to spin off the products to a third party of their own creation, forming Claris in 1987. Claris was also given the rights to several lesser-known Apple products such as MacProject, MacDraw, as well as the hit Apple II product, AppleWorks. Claris' second corporate headquarters (nicknamed "The Wedge") were in Santa Clara, about six miles from the main Apple campus.
At first Claris provided only trivial upgrades, limited to making the products continue to run on newer versions of the Macintosh operating system. In 1988, Claris purchased FileMaker from Nashoba Systems and quickly released a rebranded version called FileMaker II. In the meantime, development began on major overhauls of their entire product line, including FileMaker. Each of these would be eventually released as part of the Pro series of products.
In 1990, Apple decided that the now-successful Claris should remain a wholly owned subsidiary, as opposed to completely being spun off in an initial public offering. The company president soon left, and over the next year most of the other executives followed.
That same year Claris also purchased an integrated application written by two former Claris employees. After rebranding in a style similar to FileMaker, MacDraw and MacWrite, it was released in 1991 as ClarisWorks, and became another huge success for the company. After a lengthy series of ups and downs, this product was eventually taken back by Apple in 1998 and rebranded as AppleWorks (for Macintosh).
In the late 1980s Claris began a major upgrade effort, re-writing all of its products to use a more modern and common user interface. The result was the "Pro" series: MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro and FileMaker Pro. In order to provide a complete office suite they later purchased the rights to the Informix WingZ spreadsheet on the Mac, re-branding it as Claris Resolve, and added the new presentation program Claris Impact.
The series was released piecemeal over a period of about two years, during which period Microsoft was able to dominate the market with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. While the Claris packages were arguably much more "approachable" than the Microsoft applications, the Claris software applications lacked some features of the now mature Microsoft suite, leaving them lacking in "checkbox features." Their value was further eroded by aggressive bundling deals from Microsoft that could allow Word, Excel and PowerPoint to be purchased for a cost not much higher than MacWrite alone, a bundle that Claris did not match. Claris did offer ClarisWorks, an all-in-one package, and while the price was right it was very limited and could not compete in the business market. Microsoft also released a Works package.
Microsoft's domination of the Macintosh office suite software marketplace would be replicated five years later when (following the release of Windows 95), Microsoft Office crushed its two main rivals in Windows software: the WordPerfect/Quattro Pro suite and the Lotus SmartSuite.
In the late 1980s, HyperCard needed updating as well, but Apple management did not see any value in the product and let it wither. Complaints eventually became loud enough that they decided something had to be done. Studying the problem, they decided that all software should be released through Claris, and sent HyperCard and the Mac OS to them. Many of the developers refused to move to Claris, leading to a serious split in development that delayed future releases of both products. The Mac OS was soon returned to Apple, although HyperCard was ignored for a time, before also returning briefly as a part of the QuickTime group.
In 1988, Claris published Claris CAD, a 2-D CAD package, and Claris Graphics Translator, a translation package for Claris CAD.
In early 1989, Claris published SmartForm Designer, software to design forms, and a companion product, SmartForm Assistant, software to fill forms created by SmartForm Designer.
In 1994, Claris published Amazing Animation, software aimed at children and young teenagers, allowing them to produce their own short animated films.
Other products added to the line included Claris Emailer, Claris OfficeMail, and Claris Organizer. These products were part of a new effort to diversify Claris and no longer chase the "office" market, which by this point was considered a lost cause.
Transition to FileMaker Inc.
By the mid-1990s it appeared to most observers that Apple was in serious danger of disappearing. The main ClarisWorks development team left Claris, disillusioned with the product and the market, and founded Gobe Software, which produced a Claris-like office suite for the then-new BeOS.
Facing declining sales, Claris management decided that FileMaker was the only product worth keeping, and put all of the rest of the products on indefinite hold. By 1998 the transition was complete and the company renamed itself as FileMaker Inc. Claris's only other major product, ClarisWorks, was taken back by Apple to become AppleWorks. The company kept FileMaker and Claris HomePage 3.0. The latter was discontinued in 2001 leaving FileMaker as its lone offering until January 8, 2008, when the company released Bento, a template-based database application with a leaning toward information from other applications.
- MacTech, Claris Solutions Alliance Expansion, December 4, 1996
- TidBITS, Michael Jardeen, To Home Page and Back Again, #422/March 30, 1998
- Wired News, Joe Ashbrook Nickell, What is Apple Up to With Claris Shake-up?, January 27, 1998
- Alan Zisman, Apple Windows?-- Software for the rest of us?, March 18, 1994
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