Friday, October 29, 2010

Apps make the world go around

custom apps
Let's look at applications.

Apps are after all the lifeblood of the Apple Store.

Could that same be said for Domino applications?
Keep in mind I am not a developer so let's keep this light for now.

Some have tried to sell apps at a similar pricing structure as Apple, some aim at the corporate solution side and pretty much every IBM Business Partner falls somewhere on the spectrum. And there is the free side of apps available at too.

What possesses them all to keep writing applications for a product Microsoft considers dead?

Some argue it is the speed of creating the application. You may know it by the more familiar acronym RAD, Rapid Application Development. And we don't mean a simple one off web page or Notes application that could be done in an hour or 2 or 5 minutes depending on one's prowess. We mean a full featured work flow application or expense report or HR resume collection and processing system. Or a clip board application that synchronizes to a main office via email from the field?

The forward thinking of us realize that there is more to the universe than pure Domino applications as well. The recent announcement about Lotus Connections being bundled with Cognos should lead to a number of interesting applications and plug-ins. So there is a variety within Lotus for everyone.

Naturally companies are loathe to drop any application that runs their business, but the forward thinking companies want to keep that application but move it to the modern times via web apps or mobile device apps.

If you asked someone to take the old apps and rewrite them in a new program, and if the original was a Lotus Notes/Domino application, it may not be so simple. Much of what Domino does in the background natively, would need to be coded from scratch in most other systems. A daunting task in time and money usually.

So if apps are the Holy Grail, why does it matter which platform you right them for? After all, the user never sees the server. And if it is on the web, isn't that all anyone cares about?

The beauty of Domino applications is that a simple flat database could on one hand be an object store but also be the front end UI or the highly interactive forms in a workflow or just as well connect to nearly any depository to manipulate the data in some way shape or form. Could you do the same in other systems, sure, but the expense and effort would possibly out pace the value of the application.

What about the not so corporate world? What do roofers do? Window hangers or painters? Hair Salons or fitness gyms? They can't always enjoy the benefits of such a "large" system...or can they?

Some have a program in place, sometimes a niche product for them, other times a self written one or just a generic one of the shelf. Without being able to easily edit or manipulate these programs, are they really being useful? Would a cloud or purely web solution be more beneficial in these cases? Especially one with a mobile app? Yes indeed and maybe this is an emerging market for some of you. Others may sniff and say it's too small, but everyone started small at some time.

Their applications could be created and leveraged as quantity grows to provide even more benefits than the previous solution, if they had one at all. Like restaurants having an ordering menu for phones which may cost as much as 5 figures in development expense, the benefit is seen over time not all at once. That flexibility, to have an app written by someone else, but then change your menu whenever you need is priceless to that restaurant owner. No one wants software that is difficult to use or learn, they want plain and simple.

But here is the problem, to these companies the app has to be cheap enough while in corporate the same fee would be seen as too cheap, believe it or not it can be viewed this way.

Right now as I look out my window I see delivery trucks, fitness runners, garbage collectors and other business people and each of them could benefit from a simple application, but can you nail the price point?

Sure we could put together something to demo for them in a few hours on Domino and it is what they may want or need? But can you sell it to them? If so, then go do it, if not, find your niche and work it. Talk to your clients, find out what they are looking for to get done, maybe not today but down the road, and start a skeleton of that project to demo.

The beauty of Domino is even a non-developer can really make some good use out of it, if one has the interest. Got the interest? Go download the Lotus Designer client for free and see what you think.


  1. Keith,

    As a developer, I see our focus in Web and mobile apps. For apps to be successful in the app store model the entire installation process needs to be easy and quick. For users that have a Notes client that should not be a problem. Unfortunately, that is not most of the world.

  2. Apple Appstore sells to individuals who own their own hardware and can download, use and/or discard apps easily. While most of these apps have function, the visual interface is normally what draws end users in.
    Contrast with Notes: most apps designed for collaboration/sharing information, so require some administration. Most cost a bit more than a large lunch and IBM still hasn't made deployment an easy thing to do. A for the visual interface? A lot can be done from the Domino side - the notes client is limited by IBM not updating/improving/adding UI widgets.
    Notes apps

  3. Richard,
    I hear you and see it in clients these days. It should be easier than it is.
    Wayne, yes I see that as well, it would be nice if plugins/widgets were easier to work with, but they are not far from what is needed, but is corporate ready to let users just "add a widget"? From discussions, sadly, this is not the case.