These days, software and computing companies are scrambling to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to smartphone and tablet apps. Not to be outdone by Salesforce, which recently introduced an online store for mobile apps, IBM has announced several mobile apps for companies that rely on its Lotus Notes software. The apps aim to make it easier for mobile workers toting iPads, iPhones and Android devides to communicate through instant messaging and to easily access their Lotus Notes mail and calendars from mobile devices.

IBM’s mobile play, while aimed at large businesses with extensive IT departments, has multiple benefits for field service firms, allowing technicians in the field to access documents and communicate with each other in the field and with managers back in the office.

IBM’s offering is not necessarily built with field service in mind — IBM Connections, for example, enables on-the-go document editing. But the apps will certainly help service firms that are already running Lotus Notes get access to customer documents and communicate with coworkers. A few relevant apps for service firms:

  •  Instant messaging with IBM Sametime: Businesses who already use IBM Sametime can now extend their use of the program to technicians in the field using Apple and Android tablets and smartphones. Technicians can IM with either a single or multiple coworkers, allowing them to collaborate at the customer location to get the problem fixed right away.
  • Mail and calendar overhaul: Lotus Notes Traveler enables a one-click call feature, and also includes shortcuts to Lotus Notes mail and calendars.

As we all become confortable with turning to online app stores for the things we want for our mobile devices, whether Angry Birds or productivity tools such as Evernote, expect to see business follow the trend. ReadWriteWeb‘s Dan Rowinski writes about the advantages of the “app store model” for businesses:

One is the ability of the end user to search and locate the app that they need and conversely, the ability of the enterprise to get their presence out there and make and audience aware that they have an application, they have value to offer in certain areas for certain tasks.

IBM’s apps are available in the Apple App Store and Android Market, and most are free for companies that have already purchased Lotus Notes.