Are RIM's New Tools Enough To Spur Developers?

In addition to the PlayBook and BlackBerry Messenger Social network platform, Research In Motion also introduced a host of new developer tools in hopes of boosting developer enthusiasm.
RIM Playbook Enterprise Tablet
(click image for larger view)
RIM Playbook Enterprise Tablet
One of the problems faced by RIM is a deficit in the number of applications available in BlackBerry App World. RIM has tried to pitch the "quality over quantity" angle, but that's a tough sell when the competition has 10 to 25 times the number of apps.

Apple's iPhone App Store has more than a quarter million applications. Google's Android Market is nearing 100,000. Clearly developers are excited to create mobile applications. Why, then, are there only 10,000 apps in BlackBerry App World? RIM's BlackBerry smartphones continue to rank highly in sales around the world. The users are there, why aren't the apps?

RIM stumbled a bit out of the gate when it launched App World. The only way to pay for applications was via PayPal. PayPal works, but is cumbersome for the end user. With limited payment options, developers didn't have an easy way to make money from App World. Only recently did RIM bring carrier billing to App World, which lets users charge app purchases to their accounts.

That brings us to the new tools announced at RIM's DEVCON event: WebWorks, BlackBerry Advertising Service, BlackBerry Analytics Service, and BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware.

BlackBerry WebWorks will let developers build full-featured applications for BlackBerry entirely in HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Developers can use their HTML chops and take advantage of advanced features through APIs and services.

BlackBerry Advertising Service lets developers integrate advertising into their applications with just a few lines of code. RIM also is enabling new monetization opportunities to BlackBerry developers by making it easier to advertise both on the development side and on the commercial side.

RIM partnered with Webtrends to create the BlackBerry Analytic Service. BlackBerry Analytics Service will allow developers to add measurement into their applications and offer insight into how customers are using their BlackBerry smartphone applications.

BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware in a new enterprise application development platform designed to speed up the creation of "Super Apps" for commercial enterprise and corporate developers. It simplifies enterprise application development and solves some of the challenges of building for mobility, including device OS compatibility and wireless connectivity.

Speaking to developers during the event, there was definitely some enthusiasm for the new tools. Some said that these are long-overdue and long-requested features needed to really target the BlackBerry platform. More of the developers InformationWeek chatted with were pleased with the advertising and analytic services more than anything else.

The biggest concern voiced over and over from developers attending the event was the monetization issue. Sure, some people like to create applications just for the fun of it, but many also wouldn't mind a paycheck to accompany their hard work. The advertising service will allow developers an easier way to make money without the need to charge for their applications. The analytic service will give them the insight they need for future applications and revisions to existing applications.

One new feature that was a hit with developers is the in-app purchasing feature. Developers will now be able to offer more content to end users who can make micro-payments to unlock features within applications.

There was some skepticism from developers about how well these new tools will work, however. One company, which asked not to be named, said that things are never as easy as "one line of code," and had doubts that the advertising service will be as easy to use as RIM claims.

In the end, however, if developers can see a clear path to a payday, they are more likely to target the BlackBerry platform. RIM has provided them with a better view of that path.


Five Ways PlayBook Kills iPad

First Impressions Of BlackBerry PlayBook

RIM Fuzzy On BlackBerry 6 And QNX Transition

RIM's WebWorks Promises Web Apps For BlackBerries

BlackBerry 6 Missing Something On Non-Touch Phones

RIM's BlackBerry Messenger Develops Social Powers

RIM Intros 'PlayBook' Enterprise Tablet

Editor's Choice
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer