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7/8/2011
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RIM PlayBook A Bust With Developers

In the latest indication it may be a flop, RIM's widely hyped tablet did little to spur demand for programming work around the BlackBerry OS platform.

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardown
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardown
Developers who write apps for the BlackBerry OS aren't getting much of a boost from RIM's new PlayBook tablet, as businesses and consumers continue to shun the device, data released Thursday shows.

"While the mobile job market as a whole is booming, weak BlackBerry jobs figures countered this trend," said officials at Freelancer.com, an online firm that matches programmers with organizations that need IT help.

The company's "Freelancer Fast 50" list tracks changes in demand for programming work for various devices, platforms, and operating systems. BlackBerry OS jobs listed on Freelancer.com, including those aimed at the PlayBook, fell 6% in the second quarter, sequentially, the company said.

RIM launched the PlayBook on April 19 to mixed reviews. The company issued a major software update just two weeks later to address a number of bugs and add features like video chat, BlackBerry Messenger, and Docs Editing. Still, PlayBook sales have been weak--a fact that was partly behind RIM's warning in June that fiscal 2012 profits would not meet expectations. The company also said it planned to cut jobs across its organization.

Critics have panned RIM CEO Jim Balsillie for spending too much time on a fruitless attempt to negotiate the purchase of the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes, and too little on efforts to keep the RIM ecosystem competitive with Apple's iOS devices and Google Android phones. Once the mobile market leader, RIM's share fell to 24.7% in May, behind Google and Apple, according to data from ComScore.

While programming work is sourced through numerous channels, Freelancer.com officials said their jobs board is a good indicator of overall demand for a platform. "More and more people kicked off the new year by building new businesses or bettering their current businesses using online freelancers," said Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie, in a statement.

"While BlackBerry App World has been live since 2009 and boasts over 37,000 apps, public interest is bordering on non-existent," a Freelancer.com spokesman said.

The company's data shows that the platform that made the biggest gain in the second quarter in terms of programming demand was HTML5--possibly reflecting the recent debut of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser, which supports the format. HTML5 jobs increased 34%. Another big gainer was Google's AdSense, up 27%. Android jobs, meanwhile, jumped 20%.

Demand for Windows Mobile work slumped 16%. Microsoft is planning a major upgrade for its Windows Phone OS, but the update, known as Mango, won't ship until later this year.

IT is caught in a squeeze between requests for new applications, services, and device support and demands from upper management to keep budgets lean, staffing light, and operations tight. These are irreconcilable objectives as long as we spend the vast majority of our resources on legacy services. Read our report now. (Free registration required.)

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