Now the personal side of WebObjects: while Apple's provided the development tool kit and server for free, they need to provide some fully functional, easily customizable WebObjects apps that users can tweak and deploy, and then drive WebObjects use with some targeted marketing.
Users have lots of needs that can be addressed by WebObjects applications. By offering ready to go applications that are easily customized, Apple could not only create new users familiar with WebObjects, but also enter new markets by hosting WebObjects applications for their customers as part of their .Mac service.
Much of .Mac's existing functionality is delivered through WebObjects applications. Everything from iCards to Groups to bookmark and contact publishing is done using WebObjects. Apple could both expand these hosted services, and also deliver much of what they've already developed as stand alone applications to be deployed locally by Mac OS X Server users.
WebObjects can provide the logic to drive web based presentations and portfolios for pro clients. Users can customize the replies they want to solicit, and WebObjects can deliver reports of their potential clients' feedback and requests for information. Again, Apple could deliver such applications for users to host themselves, or provide a business tier of .Mac services that incorporate a range of dynamic applications that can be easily customized to fit users' needs.
.Mac community store
Apple already has its own web based Apple Stores and the standalone client iTunes Music Store. Apple could easily deliver a simple store front application that manages inventory, shopping carts, and billing, as a package for their users to deploy on their own servers, or as noted above, provide a store hosting service for businesses in .Mac.
Apple provides the music labels with simple WebObjects client tools to upload their content to the iTMS. They could to the same for a .Mac community store. Imagine if Apple incorporated a WebObjects based store, similar to the iTMS in iTunes, as a special window inside the Finder (or as a stand alone application). Rather than launching a web browser and logging into Amazon and dealing with the oddities of web based shopping carts, a stand alone client store application would deliver a fast, solid, store front.
As Apple did with iTunes and the iTMS, the client app could be delivered cross platform, possibly even tied into iTunes on the Windows side. Of course, Apple could also deliver a web based front-end to the same application, giving users the choice of downloading a client or accessing the store directly from the web.
What would this store sell? Software, books, fonts, RAM, toner cartridges, printer paper, magazine subscriptions, and pretty much anything else Mac users might want. Nobody else is positioned to offer a client app serving such a market. Users uninterested in the store would never have to see it. For everyone else, the Apple client store would make it easy to buy items as needed. Mac OS X could even link to needed parts.
Open System Profile and you could click a link to order RAM designed for your laptop. The toner button that shows up in print dialogs could similarly link to the store, letting you order the right toner in one click, or offer to subscribe you to regular shipments of consumables like toner or glossy printer paper, at regular intervals. If Apple isn't interested in expanding their own warehouses, they could easily just aggregate their customer's purchases through Amazon or other retailers.
This is a unique opportunity for Apple because they uniquely own the WebObjects software, they have uniquely built online stores that successfully handle both high volumes and deal with small purchases, they have uniquely delivered client side applications that bypass the limitations of the web to deliver web services from a client app both for buyers and sellers, they have a unique position as a major brand with strong customer loyalty and customer satisfaction, and they have a unique set of services deployed for community of .Mac users.
Expanding .Mac, and also offering the flexibility (as noted in the previous article) of offering these applications via .Mac or hosted locally as part of Mac OS X Server, would further increase the sphere of influence surrounding WebObjects. WebObjects could be the equivalent to a HyperCard web server, if Apple pushed it beyond the Enterprise market.
Ready to look at the hardware to deliver all these applications?