Lobby4Linux Interview Ms. Joanie Mann, VP of Appgen Technologies, Inc

Posted by helios on Jun 21, 2005 2:25 PM EDT
lobby4linux.com; By helios
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If you ask me, our competitor's products hedge their bets by designing their software with the odds that many businesses will fail in a couple of years. We build our applications for the businesses that grow and thrive.

Members of Lobby4Linux.com are aware of just how focused we are in getting particular selections of Linux software either improved or re-written in order to be competitive with Microsoft. Nothing short of world domination will suffice. Well, actually, twenty percent of the market would do nicely. As well, our members know that we strive to get a “QuickBooks Killer” developed so that those who are staying with Windows for that particular program can finally make the Linux switch.

To be just as honest as you deserve us to be with you...to this point, we haven't had much luck. Many of the developers we have talked to like the idea. They either are restricted by time and other projects or feel they don't have the skills to take on an effort of this magnitude. Lobby4Linux is willing to do its part in funding such an effort, but so far, no takers.

OK Appgen, that's your cue.

Sometimes, a laser focus is not the best way to meet your goals. In the case of Lobby4Linux trying to find a business accounting application, it proved to be exactly the wrong tact for accomplishing our mission. I was so focused on finding a GPL solution to our accounting software dilemma, I missed the obvious answer to this problem. See, I thought..., no I insisted upon the fact that this accounting software should be free. As in beer, as in freedom as in : Insert your own analogy here. Offerings such as Gnucash and Kmymoney are free, so it stands to reason that this effort should be free as well. That should indicate to you just how out of my league I was playing.

Spotlight center stage on Ms. Joanie Mann, Vice President of Appgen Technologies, Inc.

Joanie Mann is a no-nonsense, get-it-done-and-I-don't-want-to-hear-any-excuses type of executive. When she speaks to you concerning her company and her product, you know where her passions are. She not only believes that Appgen's product, MyBooks is the best solution for the business world, she is highly capable of convincing you why it is as well. Born and raised in the rugged Oregon timber region, she has a direct and aggressive approach to getting her job done. I had the privilege of interviewing Joanie and I felt that anyone interested in the development of applications for Linux, and especially business applications for Linux would be interested in what she has to say.

L4L: Joanie, it's a pleasure to finally sit down and talk with you. First, I want to ask you about Appgen. Many people have told me that they thought Appgen was “dead”. Obviously not. What happened?

JM: (...laughing) Yes, the report of our demise has been prematurely reported. In a nutshell, here is the history. Appgen Business Software was ported to a Unix platform many moons ago...it's a language (Appgen 4GL) and a tightly integrated database/runtime system...thin client, thin server. We had the first Java Linux Desktop Client, and that was before Accpac by the way, I believe it was 1999.

The VAR's (value-added resellers) were the lifeblood of the company but the consumer dictated what dominated here. Focus on the emergence of Windows, with music, high def graphics and flight simulator/gaming-level graphics, the customer decided what they wanted as far as what they saw on the screen.

The company then created MyBooks Pro, acquired a thing called MoneyDance and tried to go head-to-head with our major competitor in the retail smb software market. There isn't enough money on the planet to do that in a day...The VAR's were ignored, the money was gone and the company closed.

Approximately 2 years ago, Aptus Corporation acquired the IP, certain key smart guys, and got the product back in business. Then we started work upgrading systems, platforms and laying out our long term plans. L4L: We test-drove MyBooks at Lobby4Linux. It appears that you guys haven't missed anything with this application. Tell me a bit about your marketing strategy.

JM: As you can see, MyBooks is a Java-based app so it offers most all platforms a way to implement and execute. See, that's the beauty of MyBooks. The program and the data are portable to Linux, Mac and Windows without any data loss. You can access your data from any Internet-driven terminal. I have read on your website about how you are trying to get such a program developed for Linux. Well, here we are. Our strongest marketing point is exactly that. You can use MyBooks with virtually any platform. Since transferring QuickBooks data from Windows to Linux is no longer a problem, Linux users who found themselves still dependent upon Windows for the use of QuickBooks can now fully migrate to Linux and not look back.

L4L: So how's it going so far...? I note that Linspire is packaging the trial version of MyBooks. What are your plans for other distributions?

JM: It's going very well. While Linspire does package MyBooks, other mainline distros are ready to go too. Suse and Red Hat offer drop-in solutions and we are currently working on many other distributions, getting MyBooks Pro ready for them as well. Linux and Appgen find themselves in a position to help each other at this point in history. The existence of Lobby4Linux highlights that point. Our research as well as yours indicates that many businesses are either switching or thinking of switching to Linux. If the lack of a complete accounting program is all that stands in the way of this, then we can remove that obstacle. Linspire is now selling Linux-based computers through Walmart and other retail outlets. It is only a matter of time before the word gets out. Linux in general and Appgen stand to gain substantially from this partnership.

L4L: You mention other distributions, are you going to offer a package to everyone?

JM: Everyone that we can, or to everyone that is interested. If approached by a distro developer, we will do our best to work with them and get a package put together.

L4L: Ah, then the next question begs to be asked: Are you going to open source MyBooks Pro?

JM: (raising an eyebrow) Not at this time...no, we are not planning to open source MyBooks Pro. I know the philosophy of the open source community and I actually believe in the principle, however; we believe that MyBooks Pro is priced very competitively and for now, we will keep the source to ourselves. Let's just say that there may be a surprise for developers down the road a ways. I'm really not prepared to elaborate on it any further though. Just trust me on this one.

In keeping with our plans, the applications, to include the development applications, were acquired into InsynQ. They will continue to be improved and ultimately offered as both licensed/distributed software and as ASP-delivered, hosted and managed application services. We have very specific ideas on the direction we want MyBooks Pro to go.

So to specifically address the question, the Appgen 4GL runtime and database are retained by Aptus Corporation and are under improvement as well as being ported to and packaged for a number of specific platforms and Linux distros. You will be happy to know that PCLinuxOS is one such distribution.

L4L: Well Joanie, the last thing I want to do is put you on the spot....

JM: (laughing) Yeah, right...

L4L: Look into your crystal ball and tell me what you see. Give me the prognosis for Appgen and specifically, MyBooks Pro. Tell me what MyBooks Pro is and is not.

JM: OK, remember...you asked for it. MyBooks Pro is a “total business lifecycle” system. From small businesses all the way up to Fortune 500 and up...on the same database and core accounting foundation. MyBooks Pro is able to be customized for virtually any business type. As the business grows and changes, so can the application. This is key. You never, ever lose your valuable data and history. That has been the problem faced by businesses wanting to fully migrate to Linux. Either a stopping point had to be made in QuickBooks and a starting point made in the Linux accounting app, or all that data had to be manually entered into the new Linux system. Either way was unacceptable to most businesses. Why keep two accounting systems on two platforms? MyBooks Pro solves that problem. In fact, the last thing most business do is transfer their data from QuickBooks to MyBooks Pro before they reformat the hard drive to prepare for full Linux migration.

L4L: Thus the power of MyBooks Pro.

JM: Exactly. Information is power and our apps are built for businesses that use that power to grow. No arbitrary limitations, no glass ceiling...no planned obsolescence. Maybe we are the system that is built for the percentage of small businesses that DON'T fail in their first years. If you ask me, our competitor's products hedge their bets by designing their software with the odds that many businesses will fail in a couple of years. We build our applications for the businesses that grow and thrive. MyBooks Pro is exactly the application they need to do so. We are pretty darned proud of our “old growth”. Established customers who are adding function to their accounting applications in order to meet their growing needs. This is very good for our VAR's and developers as you can imagine.

L4L: Joanie, it has been an absolute pleasure to speak with you. Now...there is an old saying I learned when living in Tacoma. “People from Washington state don't tan...they rust.” You have to come down to Texas as guests of Lobby4Linux.com. It will give you a chance to dry out and take in some of the local Texas flavor.

JM: Sure...Let me tie up some loose ends here and I'll take you up on that. It should only take me, oh say...4 or 5 years to get things where I want them to be. Will the offer still be open then?

L4L: Somehow, in talking with you, I don't think you will ever be happy with the status quo. Come on down when you get the chance.

JM: Thanks Ken...I'll do that.

A full press release concerning Appgen's MyBooks Pro and Linspire can be found at: [HYPERLINK@www.linspire.com]

You can visit Appgen.com for more information and to download or purchase MyBooks Pro. I have found it to be the perfect application for my businesses and I am sure you will too.

Ken Starks and Staff Lobby4Linux.com

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