If the community wants an App Store…

… then I believe it simply has to be independent – either owned and run by IBM itself (the ideal) or by a body that is outside the partner and ISV channel.

The reason why I say this?  NotesAppStore.com.

Notes App Store

Whilst I admire any effort made by a member of this community to improve the visibility and availability of products and solutions based on Lotus products, especially one that has clearly taken as much effort as NotesAppStore.com has, I can’t help but have some serious misgivings about the site:

1) NotesAppStore.com is wholly owned, managed and populated by Mayflower Software (specifically Frank Paolino), developers of a number of ISV solutions including SpamSentinel.  I’ve met Frank at Lotusphere before, and have no reason to believe that he is in anyway unethical in his approach to business.  Not unreasonably, Mayflower’s own software products are listed on the NotesAppStore.com site.  However, it is very noticeable that MayFlower’s own products have the most reviews so far posted, and that they are overwhelmingly positive (e.g. SpamSentinel has 15 reviews, all of which give 5 stars).  

I’ve never used SpamSentinel so can’t vouch for how perfect it might be as a product, but I have concerns about the possible conflict of interest between the management of review/rating submissions to the site and the listing of MayFlower’s own products.

2) The site has recently added some new functionality to allow potential customers to request a quote, e.g.:

NotesAppStore | IdeaJam ( Elguji Software )

NotesAppStore Easy Quote | IdeaJam ( Elguji Software )

NotesAppStore Easy Quote | IdeaJam ( Elguji Software )

Once again, I am not alleging any wrongdoing on Mayflower’s part, but this feature gives me real concerns about conflict of interest, either because of the intelligence it gives the owners of the site about interest/pricing/configuration of other vendor’s solutions, the opportunity to misrepresent NotesAppStore as the provider of the product, or to be (possibly accidentally) the cause of communication issues between the customer and the ISV.  Even if the quote requests go direct to the vendor with no Mayflower involvement, the site does not make this clear right now.

3) There has been, as far as I am aware, no effort to get community support around this effort. If it had been dealt with in a similar way to OpenNTF.org with some buy-in from IBM, other partners and even some customers, then I’m sure I would feel differently about its independence and integrity, but whilst the site is wholly owned and managed by one ISV then I can’t see how it can be the AppStore that so many in the community are asking for.

So, this has been a pretty negative post so far, and I’d like to sign off with some constructive feedback…  In my opinion, if Mayflower wants NotesAppStore.com to be widely accepted, then there needs to be a couple of major moves – firstly to reach out to the community to create a cross-organisational board that can run the site as a Not For Profit that is independent and auditable.  Secondly, it must have some level of buy-in from IBM in terms of commitment to further develop the Notes/Domino products to better support purchase and provisioning of third party solutions from an online App Store.

Personally, if we want to get to an Apple/RIM-style App Store for the Lotus platforms, I’m not 100% convinced that NotesAppStore.com is the place to start. But I would love to be proved wrong – over to Mayflower to prove that they can take this forward to the place we need it to get to.  

Would you agree?

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!