Recently The VAR Guy blog announced that an OCS app store was in the works. Not by Microsoft though – by Evangelyze Communications, an OCS channel partner (like us!).

(There's a nice write-up on No Jitter too. Eric asked some good questions.)

I find this idea very interesting. Honestly, I hadn't figured OCS as the type of platform for an app store. But as I think about what these posts have covered, it makes more sense. Let me explain what I'm thinking here.

As Companies Grow, Communication Needs Change

The larger a company grows, the more complex its communications needs become. Communications Server is quite flexible enough to handle more complexity (especially with OCS 2010 coming). But there's no shame in getting help. By building onto OCS, you can customize its setup toward more specific customer needs.

We've done that ourselves with the Dialogic VoIP gateway. No reason someone can't do it with apps in an app store.

Say one company needs video conferencing between interstate offices. Another doesn't care about conferencing, but wants VoIP on all their phones. Two different priorities. Two different OCS setups. Perfect opportunity for custom developers.

Advantages of an OCS App Store to Developers

A Showcase
Enterprise-level apps aren't always easy to market. (Not to mention custom development services!) You're mostly marketing direct to companies, without always knowing where they are in their buying cycle. Your marketing could arrive too early – or too late.

Contrast that with a profile in an app store. Then the customers come find you when it's time to buy. All you have to do then is make sure you have a solid product, and you deliver content that addresses their communications needs.

IP Security
Safety of your intellectual property, that is. Since this would be run by a Microsoft partner and not Microsoft itself, Evangelyze has a vested interest in keeping such a store buttoned down and protected. (I'm sure Microsoft will help at some point too.)

Project Focus
You can focus on one endpoint (Polycom desk phones,smartphones,laptops/netbooks) instead of trying to develop a big huge solution for everyone. The customers who want apps for that endpoint will come find you. We already see this kind of specialization in the Apple store.

Some OCS App Ideas

I'm throwing out some ideas for apps here, off the top of my head. If you want to use one (or you're already working on the same idea), email me.

  1. Social media inter-communication. Plug in Facebook Chat and Twitter.
    • A LinkedIn chat module? Maybe create an app that bridges two (or more) LI profiles via OCS IM, letting them chat in real-time after connecting? You could even leapfrog LinkedIn development here.
  2. Office Communicator versions for all smartphones. Maybe a wrapper for the Communicator client, or a duplicate (better?) app for each interface – Droid, Blackberry, iPhone/iPod, etc.
  3. Video Conferencing add-ons.
  4. Remote server access. Maybe turn OCS into a command prompt for Telnet or SSH?
  5. Translation. Auto-translate Instant Messages into a different language, and back again.
  6. Software Gateway. Hey, might as well aim high. I'm sure this is possible. Someone's already working on it, I'll bet.

Call me crazy, but I like the idea of a channel partner building an OCS app store. They have a different perspective from the team who made OCS. And it's also different from developers who'll be working on custom apps for OCS. That sort of “midway” perspective should translate to a platform everybody can take advantage of for better communications technology.

What do you think? What kind of apps would you like to see in an OCS app store? Shoot me a comment; let's talk about it.

An App Store for OCS? Great Idea!
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