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1/25/2013
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BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support

Against odds, BlackBerry 10 is gaining hype and converting skeptics. To compete, though, it needs to attract developers. Does RIM have the app for that?

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The Jan. 30 arrival of BlackBerry 10 is only days away. After looking for months like it would be dead on arrival, RIM's new OS has cultivated growing enthusiasm in recent weeks, leading Gartner analyst Phil Redman to declare in a blog post that 2013 would be the platform's "comeback year."

Whether BlackBerry 10 lives up to the sudden hype remains to be seen, but if it does, there's a good bet that app developers will be leading the charge.

RIM faces steep challenges in launching the new OS. Accounting for just 4.6% of the smartphone field in 2012, the BlackBerry platform has hemorrhaged so much of its once-considerable market share that there's little ground left to cede.

One of the most damning indictments against RIM's future has been a lack of enthusiasm among developers. The bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, phenomenon not only accelerated Android and iOS to global dominance but also realigned the workplace dynamic. Previously, IT had decided what devices were office-worthy; now, the preference of end users carries more weight.

[ Learn more about RIM's latest mobile management platform. Read RIM Launches BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10. ]

User preference demands a compelling experience driven by not only enjoyable hardware but also a rich app economy -- not the traits for which BlackBerry devices are most known. Indeed, an IDC-Appcelerator survey conducted in November found that BlackBerry attracted only one developer for every nine interested in making iPhone apps.

But opinions can change quickly in the tech world -- just ask Apple's investors. RIM has been aggressively courting developers over the last few months, and the effort has, at least in terms of volume, begun to pay off. The company audaciously promised that 70,000 apps will be available when the new phones launch, and with recent hackathons generating upward of 40,000 submissions, RIM might actually achieve its goal. What's more, RIM is offering developers incentives of up to $9,000, albeit under a a fairly specific set of conditions.

A huge catalogue won't appeal to anyone if the apps are all lousy, of course, but RIM has been proactive in this regard as well, touting the ease with which Android products can be ported. If building native BlackBerry 10 apps were to require substantially more work than creating Android offerings, most developers would just stick to the latter. But if Android developers can also sell to RIM customers with only minor marginal effort, there's a greater chance the BlackBerry app store will not only start big but also continue to grow.

The hardware is another component. Great apps can't be enjoyed if the phones and their OS aren't inviting and engaging as well. RIM hasn't released details about the new BlackBerry 10 devices but a steady stream of leaks has set expectations.

One of the upcoming devices should feature a physical QWERTY keyboard and is likely geared to those who enjoy using today's BlackBerry products. The other, which is expected to vaguely resemble an iPhone, is a more dramatic departure from the company's traditional form factors. Many of its rumored features are attractive but not groundbreaking: Near-field communication, an 8-megapixel camera, 1080p video recording, and so on. But others are more impressive, such as a screen with greater pixel density than the iPhone's Retina display.

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CoryatJohn
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CoryatJohn,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 2:31:53 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
We've resisted RIM up to this point. The RIM market is too small to justify forking our code. If RIM picks up a hefty percentage, like 20%, we'll take a look. Our efforts are focused on Android and iPhone. We'll go after Amazon and possibly Microsoft before RIM.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Moderator
1/28/2013 | 6:30:46 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
But wait I read the other day that iOS only has like 14% of the market, I haven't veified this, so why are you still developing for it?
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 6:35:18 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
14% of sales, not market share. They are two totally different things.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2013 | 8:48:28 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
While that is true, Apple is constantly declining in market share, so the question remains. However, I think the answer is that the iOS market is large enough (even if it is a minority) to justify development.

So many people have left RIM altogether that it's hard to justify development.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2013 | 11:20:13 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
This isn't true at all. In the US iOS has risen to 51% marketshare, and that's still without T-Mobile, which will be selling the iPhone in three months or so.

Worldwide, it's now up to 25.1% according to one company. This is despite it not being on China Mobile, by far the largest cell carrier, with over 700 million customers, or the largest carrier in Japan (though 2/3rds of the smartphones sold there were iPhones).

There should be little doubt that if Apple does come out with a less expensive phone, as its now being rumored, their sales will grow appreciably.

Also, much of that Android phone growth is attributed to Samsung. But they have not given quarterly sales, or shipment info since the first quarter of 2011, so all of the numbers we see are just guesses, with no hope of verification. That has to be kept in mind.
InKing
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InKing,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 3:58:28 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
Very popular games like Bard's Tale (2GB of Code) are easily ported within 24 hours to the BB10 suite. Getting developers to "buy in" is no longer a need as the big developement studios are already on board. BB10 based on QNX runs big game titles very well and the Playbook has had an awesome gaming for two years.
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 6:36:42 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
So, awesome I have never heard it had much as far as gaming ever . . .
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 4:07:09 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
RIM is going to come back, in a big way. BB10 will be a huge hit, mark my words. As for attracting developers, as the article states "opinions can change quickly in the tech world," once folks see the adoption of BB10 skyrocket, they will want to build apps for it
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2013 | 6:37:32 PM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
If OS 10 isn't light and day better than the crappy OS 7.1, they have not chance!
FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/29/2013 | 12:20:52 AM
re: BlackBerry Comeback: RIM Must Win Developer Support
I don't know if I'd say "in a big way," but I definitely think RIM's going to get a nice bump. They're moving a major revision at a time when the rest of the field is relatively quiet. They're coming out with something that will be on par, in many respects that matter to customers, with the "cool" iOS and Android phones, and like Windows Phone's hubs and live tiles, BlackBerry 10 will provide some innovative user experience features. In other words, I think the market of buyers will give BlackBerry 10 a very close look, and maybe a new heartbeat.
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