Saturday, January 30, 2010

On App Stores, Notes Home Edition, and Open Source Notes

I was helping my sister-in-law setup her new PC the other day, and checked the basic installation of Office she had ordered.  I was surprised to find that Outlook was included even in this entry level version of Office.  Yes, MS is great at getting Outlook in the hands of as many end-users as possible.

It got me thinking about how Lotus could get Notes in more end-user hands.  I mentioned in my last blog entry that part of the challenge Lotus has in the market is that where people know about Lotus (is that 1-2-3?), a significant problem is that consumers have outdated perceptions of Lotus software.  Getting Notes in the hands of more end-users could go a significant way towards eliminating this perception.

There have been a number of blog posts this past year in the Yellowverse that have touched on different ways Notes could be consumerized.  There have been suggestions that Lotus make Notes available via open source, suggestions that they put out a "Personal Edition" of Notes, and passionate lobbying for Lotus to open an app store.

Now, I'm not a fan of Lotus putting Notes into open source.  Face it, Lotus does not sell an operating system that bank-rolls all of its other software development.  Lotus needs the revenue from Notes to stay in business. But I do think that Lotus should make available a free Personal Notes client.  Huh?  Didn't I just say Lotus needs to keep it's Notes revenue?  Yes, it can do that, and still make a free Personal Edition.  Right now, Lotus does not get revenue from home users, so they lose nothing by offering a free version of Notes to that market.

But how could Lotus get Notes into the hands of home users?  Here's my thought, Lotus should steal a page from MS and put a Personal Edition of Notes within Lotus Symphony.  Lotus says that Office tools are a commodity and should be available for free.  Well, the market leading Office software considers its email client part of its Office suite--so much so that it is a part of its entry level offering.  Doesn't it follow that Lotus should view an email client as a commodity and include it with Symphony?

Of course, this would require some modifications of Notes--I'm sure many recall the incident last year of a blogger bashing Notes when he tried to install it at home without a Domino server.  Frankly, even Ed Brill admitted this is a problem, but I don't think it is as big of an issue as some make it out to be.  You can get Notes to pump mail into the 8.5 mail template with offline IMAP, and when you do, it's a great Notes 8.x experience.  BUT, it's not straightforward to do right now, and that would need to be addressed.

There could be many advantages of to bundling a Personal Edition of Notes with Symphony.
  1. Get Notes in the hands of more end-users, and combat the image of Notes as legacy software.  When you see and use Notes 8.x, you can't really hold that view.  It is cool software.  What other email client lets  you easily deploy cool widgets to improve your productivity?  Or even more impressive, connect those automatically to text recognized by Live Text?  You all know the ways that Notes shines, I won't go through them all here.
  2. Collapse Notes & Symphony development.  No need to maintain two separate code-streams under development--one for stand-alone Symphony and one for Notes with embedded Symphony.
  3. Provide an attractive market for a Lotus App Store.  I'm a strong supporter of a Lotus App Store.  Getting Designer out there for free was a huge step in the right direction to make Notes a more attractive platform for developers.  But what developer will care if the development tool is free if there is no market for their applications?  A Lotus app store that has  all of the corporate installs of Notes/Domino out there, plus several million users of Symphony would provide an attractive market for developers. And we all know that customers are less likely to migrate away from Lotus Notes when they are leveraging the platform for applications.  We can say that Notes is more than email--a vibrant App Store environment would demonstrate that in spades.  Customers would not have to have in-house development skills to take advantage of the application capabilities of Notes.
  4. Make hybrid LotusLive for even the smallest clients. Lotus has had web-based applications for some time.  But anyone who used to use Quickplace knows what a huge time-saver and improved value came with the introduction of the connectors in Quickr.  The Connections team had the same realization.  As we rush to push customers to the cloud, let's not forget the lessons learned from these other products.  Don't make end-users go to a web-browser to use the services from the web-application.  A Personal Edition of Notes would make an attractive up-sell to LotusLive services.  Users could could pull their mail down, use the embedded Sametime client, connect to activities, and maybe at some point, pull down their calendar data as an overlay like you can with your Google calendar in Notes today.  Lotus could even put a tickler in Notes for users to sign-up for a trial of LotusLive from the Sametime and Activities areas.
OK, but how does Lotus do all of the above and NOT kill their Notes revenue stream?  Why wouldn't customers just use the free version?  Well, the current Notes CAL licensing is for attaching to Domino servers.  Keep that in place.  Any user that wishes to connect their Notes client to a Domino server will require a Notes CAL.

Hmmm, was this the motivation for switching to the CAL licensing model in the first place? Has Lotus been planning to offer a Home Edition of Notes all along?  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

1 comment:

  1. Phil,

    Interesting points you have made. I like the idea of "consumerizing" notes to change perceptions. Making the designer downloadable at no cost is a good start to.

    Connecting upto the server is where the revenue is which seems to be a sensible point for the "toll-gate".

    I am hoping that groupLive will help simplify that connection to a domino server. I had made enquiries about the service only to get a "sorry, we have too many calls we'll [never] get back to you".

    Right now they're inundated with responses/RFI's so you could say that they're onto something, but having only 1 organisation, based in Germany providing this service sounds like one nasty bottle neck.

    GroupLive could be a huge success constrained only by it's own resources. But I think a more sensible way to "unleash the power within" (as Tony Robbin's would say LOL), is to franchise grouplive to support demand in every region.

    So, combining the free developer license and a franchised PAAS would cover alot of ground. I have also reflected on an AppStore but more recently I have realised it is unlikely to materialise for some time, if ever.

    Basically, how would you manage licensing for Notes apps that are downloadable ?

    Notes Domino is the father of open source development, and it's internal data structure does not lend itself naturally to an appStore with some sort of licensing control like Apple's.

    Current Notes/Domino development development does not provide this control. So we are only left with grouplive hostable services.

    The Domino server would need to include an API that can effectively manage licensing on the box.

    My general disdain for IBM as a large, supertanker-like organisation making changes at glacial speeds, leads me to the conclusion that a licensing API to support an AppStore concept is a way too ambitious for the foreseeable future.

    So, the most, realistic, optimal result will be downloading your dev client, using groupLive to deploy and host, and, (perhaps if we're lucky), regional hosting of your app's that you can manage remotely so IBM can take it's cut to.

    Let's see if they can pull it off.