Eleven months ago, I shared my thoughts on how to make Notes personal. I explained that we've found that once a tool becomes personal the objections/complains go away and people want more of Lotus Software.

I've been following with interest the many discussions in Planet Lotus this past two weeks and more than once someone mentioned that "we need an app store for Lotus Notes applications." This weekend , I got caught up with the excellent and informative This Week In Lotus podcasts and the topic was brought up again. On the podcast, opinions were shared as to why or why not an app store or catalog would or would not work. At point, Darren Duke even said something to the effect of, "you guys should talk to Eric Mack because his company's already done it with eProductivity."

There are three current solutions available that I am aware of today: OpenNTF , the Lotus Software Catalog, and the Notes App Store. OpenNTF is great, but it's geared toward developers. Lotus launched the Lotus Software Catalog at LS10 and it's beautiful, but I honestly have no idea if it is being promoted in any way that a potential customer could find it. The Notes App Store is really a catalog -- you can't buy anything yet -- but it's designed to make it easy for the end user to be able to browse through available Notes applications. This is probably the closest thing I've seen to the original printed Lotus Solutions Catalog from the early 1990's.

As far as how we sell our product, I'm not sure I would call what we have done an "app store." We have only one item available for purchase, so I can't even call it a catalog. Still, it's the only completely turn-key Notes solution I am aware of that allows someone (an administrator, executive, or end-user) to visit the site, download a stand-alone demo of the application, try it out five minutes later, download the template, apply it, evaluate it, purchase an activation key, and activate the software -- all with minimal user intervention. It wasn't easy to build, but I have some of the brightest people on my team and what we have created works and works well every day. (As I write this, people are downloading, evaluating and purchasing our software on their own.)

But this post is not about my company's product - it's about the process we use to deliver it. The people that use our product are administrators, executives, and end users -- all of them are busy people that want to save time. We've worked to lower the barrier to deployment by improving the method of delivery for our Notes app. We made it fast and easy to evaluate, apply, and purchase.

I know that it is possible to create something similar to the one stop shopping experience that end-users have come to expect with their phones. It's not quite built into Notes (as I hope someday it will be) but it works and people use it every day.

Anyway, if there's interest, I would be happy to provide an overview of how this was done and some of the lessons we've learned along the way.

Discussion/Comments (4):

Olivier@Dominux (http://www.dominux.net): 6/21/2010 5:00:10 AM
Some thoughts on an App Store/Catalog and self-serve Lotus Notes Applications

I don't understand why someone wants an app store. We don't need it anyway; we only need an easy to use, a beautifull, well organized, up-to-date and multi-lingual apps catalog.

Each products must be purchased on the editor web site.

My 2 cts!

Peter Presnell (http://www.yellowverse.com): 6/21/2010 6:54:41 AM
Some thoughts on an App Store/Catalog and self-serve Lotus Notes Applications

Great post Eric. It always frustrates me when the topic comes up that we have people who see no value in the concept for them or their products/services so they assume it can have no value for anyone else. I think it could be a big help to transform the Notes application market by opening it up to new markets such as SMB. It may even help to attract that new breed of developer many of us are so anxious to see. Its great to see you are offering the community the benefit experiences. I hope somebody takes you up on your offer.

Frank Paolino (http://www.notesappstore.com): 6/21/2010 7:11:46 AM

Eric, great idea!

You called me to discuss this but we did not connect. I would love to try this on the NotesAppStore site. A "live" environment will give us the chance to work out the implementation details across different product types. This idea moves us closer to a "true" App Store.

My goal for the NotesAppStore is to implement those things that makes it easier for a buyer to try (and buy) a Lotus Notes product.

Tim Tripcony (http://www.timtripcony.com): 6/21/2010 8:03:11 AM
Some thoughts on an App Store/Catalog and self-serve Lotus Notes Applications

@Oliver, I didn't fully understand it either (though, in theory, I liked the idea) until I started using an iPad. The iPad homepage looks almost identical to the Notes Workspace - square icons that you can organize into separate screens; the only noticeable difference is that you swipe to change screens instead of clicking a tab - and one of those icons opens an App Store that lets me browse/search the entire catalog. If I see something I want, I click one button to download it; it prompts me for my iTunes password, then starts installing. In a few seconds, the app is ready to use... none of this Next, Next, Next, Yes, Next, No, Next, Finish nonsense.

It seems most people that don't see the value in an app store for Notes are thinking about apps on the scale of ideaJam, where the product costs thousands of dollars, needs to be implemented by an admin to be of any real value, and would be purchased via PO more often than by credit card. But having used the iPad for just a couple months, I'm thinking the real value of a Notes app store would be the emergence (or re-emergence) of a bunch of apps on the scale of a basic personal task manager, or something like TwitNotes or Wildfire, which are not about sharing internal data with internal users, but rather about integrating the Notes client with various cloud-based applications and services.

Imagine if each of these types of apps cost $5 (which seems to be higher than the average cost of an iOS app): there are supposedly over 100 million active Lotus Notes users. For every 1% of those who chose to purchase a Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Plaxo connector for Notes, whoever wrote it makes $5 million dollars (minus whatever commission is extracted by whoever runs the app store). That's the kind of "get-rich-quick" possibility that is inspiring all manner of developers to write iOS apps... and (I suspect) would inspire the same type of opportunists to try Notes development when they realize the target market is even larger than that of iOS device owners.

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