Research In Motion is clearly attempting to do some damage control at DevCon Europe, which is taking place in Amsterdam this week. Speaking to some 2,000 developers, the company revealed that BlackBerry App World now holds more than 60,000 applications. That's up more than 300% from a year ago, though it's still a fraction of what's offered by the Android and iOS app stores.
The company's VP of developer relations, Alec Saunders, said that App World has seen 2 billion downloads in total, and is seeing 174 million downloads per month and 6 million downloads per day. The Android Market has seen more than 11 billion total downloads, and the iTunes App Store has seen more than 15 billion total downloads.
The numbers that should really matter to the developer audience, however, are those regarding profitability. According to Saunders, BlackBerry applications generate about 40% more revenue than apps in the Android Market. This is largely due to the fact that a higher percentage of apps downloaded from the App World are paid, while the most popular Android applications are free. RIM also thinks that its carrier billing partnerships, which allow people to pay for apps through their monthly cellphone bill, has also helped.
"BlackBerry is one of the most profitable platforms to work for," said Saunders. "Very clearly, developers are making money on BlackBerry and PlayBook today. There is a study from Evans Data that shows that 13% of all Blackberry developers made more than $100,000 from App World. That is more than from any iPhone or Android application. And I think that speaks to the economic power of our platform."
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There's a big reason why RIM is talking profitability to developers: PlayBook OS 2.0 and BlackBerry 10 will utterly fail if developers don't support the forthcoming platforms with tens of thousands of applications.
One thing RIM announced that should help increase developer interest is its new support for the Qt developer framework. Qt has been used by Nokia for ages to develop for Symbian, Maemo, and MeeGo. You might think to yourself, "What use is that, Symbian and MeeGo are dead!" But the European developer audience to whom RIM is speaking is full of developers who've invested time and money in the Qt platform. Remember, Europe was Nokia's stronghold for more than a decade. By supporting Qt, RIM is giving another developer ecosystem a shot at its platform.
PlayBook OS 2.0, which is due to arrive later this month, is a significant step forward for RIM's turnaround efforts, but there's still a lot of work ahead of RIM. One of the key aspects of PlayBook OS 2.0 is that it will run Android applications in an emulator environment. This alone should give PlayBook a bit of a boost when it comes to app availability. More importantly, however, RIM needs developers to code native apps for PlayBooks OS 2.0. Apps that developers create for the tablet platform will also run on BlackBerry 10.
BlackBerry 10, due to arrive late this year, is RIM's next-generation smartphone platform. BlackBerry 10 needs to have a healthy app economy up and running at launch. Smartphone buyers won't want to take a chance on buying a new phone if there aren't any applications available for it--especially when apps are so readily available for competing devices.
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