Another frequent theme in the blog comments and postings in the last week has been "IBM, you need to distribute more free apps with Notes!"  The assertion goes that Notes/Domino need to demonstrate more immediate value, instant gratification, and hey, weren't those "Nifty Fifty" cool?

I know we've had this discussion on my blog before, but in the spotlight, I'll take it on again.  Distributing free full apps is not a likely scenario for us going forward.  Heck, if we had to play then by the rules we play by now, I'm not even sure we'd have had a teamroom template or some of the others.  The reality is the complexity of committing to 5 years of support, testing on multiple platforms, translating into all the languages that we ship Notes in....I would rather not try than to do it and not do it well.

I looked at what Microsoft has done with SharePoint and they give away about a dozen apps that they have actually translated.  But I think, like the Nifty Fifty all those years ago, those apps are really "starter apps" rather than complete enterprise-deployed solutions.  So they are an attention-getter but is it "the" thing selling SharePoint?  I don't think so.

But I get the instant gratification point.  Exhibit A: OpenNTF.org.  Tons of great stuff, all free, open source, growing by the day, supported by IBM.  Use it!

I heard somewhere in the last week that the reason that the XPages Wiki on OpenNTF.org isn't more-widely deployed is that there are bugs in it.  Um, it's OPEN SOURCE -- fix the bugs!  Check in the changes!  

Do we need to do more to promote OpenNTF?  Yes!  Someone pointed out that we weren't giving it airtime in the Lotusphere Comes to You presentations.  Well, I am 100% sure it was included in the Notes/Domino strategy presentation, but that still is reaching only a fraction of the whole Notes customer base.  We need to bake it into product help, documentation, and promote it on the pages of ibm.com.  Agree to all these points.

What else can we do to promote apps?  Some partners have suggested that they could create and give away "light" versions of their apps.  I love that idea.  I wanted to do it when we launched Notes 7, give partners who created lite apps a chance to shine in the spotlight.  Today, we could highlight those free apps on the Lotus Solutions Catalog, the same way Apple's app store gives me some free "light" apps where I then am enticed to buy them for all their glorious utility on my iPad.  And yes, I am dearly aware that the catalog is not visible enough, that its home on Greenhouse knocks its credibility as a strategic part of our story, and that not enough partner solutions are in there.

Another suggestion I received was that IBM should OEM some apps and distribute them with Notes, like we used to do with Actioneer.  I don't know the details of that deal, but I think it was more like the plug-ins (e.g. TripIt and the like) where the free version leads to some kind of upsell for other services.  That's a good model and I'd sure like to promote more of that.

In listening to "This Week in Lotus", I heard some discussion of a 3rd party app store/catalog for Notes apps.  I think it's a decent idea, but I think that a 3rd party solution isn't likely to ever get as much traction as if we made the Solutions Catalog more app-store-like.  As was pointed out on the podcast, there isn't exactly an app store for Windows (or for Mac OS X for that matter!) so it is one of those things that works because of the entirety of the story for iPhone, not just because of Apple's prowess at e-commerce (though that is clearly part of it).  Need to put some more thought into this space.

Sorry for stream-of-consciousness blogging tonight -- jet-lag (well, not technically, since it's basically the same time zone) and good Chilean sauvingon blanc make for interesting blogging.  I haven't asked any questions here, just wanted to capture the 2nd set of conversation threads and say, yes, I hear you.  As do my colleagues.  Lots and lots and lots of good discussion on these topics.

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