NEWS12 November 2009

Confirmit reveals ‘app store’ ambitions for Flex

Technology UK

UK— Confirmit is setting out to build the market research industry’s version of Apple’s iPhone App Store with its new ‘Flex’ offering that will allow for the development of plug-in functionality for its flagship survey software platform.

Chief strategy officer Pat Molloy (pictured) described the core Confirmit platform as a ”supertanker” that’s sturdy and reliable yet slow to adapt to technological advances.

“With Confirmit Flex,” he says, “we’ve created a way of building fast, agile ‘speedboats’ to run alongside the ‘supertanker’.”

Molloy cites the App Store as a definite influence in the development of the Flex approach, but the real genesis of the idea occurred a year ago, he said. “We noticed that we were getting a lot of requests to do things that were slightly ‘funky’, slightly outside the normal realm of our business,” said Molloy.

As standalone products, Molloy said these ideas lacked “a solid business case” worthy of development time, but then the idea for Flex emerged as way to build new and niche bits of functionality that could be bolted on to Confirmit at little cost.

Molloy gives the example of one of the first of these apps – an SMS survey plugin that took five hours to build and which uses the core Confirmit platform for survey authoring and data collection and analysis. A similar add-on has been developed to include instant messaging within Confirmit-authored surveys. “We built it as a proof-of-concept,” said Molloy, “but it’s getting a lot of interest.”

The bulk of development activity to date has been in-house as Flex is still in beta mode. Third-party developers have started to test the water – a company called XMR is working on a Flash renderer called Frend – and existing Confirmit customers are also being encouraged to try their hand at creating.

Flex will be released into the wild in the spring of next year alongside the latest version of the Confirmit platform, but public access will not equal a free-for-all, says Molloy. Apps for Confirmit will be policed to ensure they are fit for purpose. No one wants these ‘speedboats’ to crash, he says.

At this early stage, though, it’s unclear how many Flex plugins will be made publicly available for purchase. Users of Confirmit who have their own in-house development resources may want to keep their creations proprietary, while less well-resourced customers may commission third-parties to develop add-ons for their own personal use.