BlackBerry gets aggressive about apps

JENNETH ORANTIA
Last updated 16:49 08/10/2012
BlackBerry 10
JUICY NEW TABLET: The prototype seeded to BlackBerry 10 developers looks promising.

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Facebook and Twitter are on board, but where's YouTube and Angry Birds?

Research In Motion needs to offer more than just clever new features for its BlackBerry 10 to take off. For consumers and BYOD (bring your own devices) workers in particular, much of the new platform's momentum will hinge on the hardware on which it is offered, as well as the apps and content that is available when it launches in the first quarter of next year.

RIM hasn't had much to say about the BlackBerry 10 devices themselves, although it has pledged to continue offering physical QWERTY keyboards alongside full touchscreens.

The prototype seeded to BlackBerry 10 developers provides clues about what one of the devices will look like, and between the slim proportions, large, high-res screen and fluid performance, it looks promising.

BlackBerry App World has close to 105,000 apps available, and it has clocked 3 billion downloads since it first opened three years ago. The problem is that none of those apps will be compatible with BlackBerry 10, which means developers will need to port all of their apps over to the new platform.

RIM presented a brave face to media and developers at the BlackBerry Jam developer conference in California late last month.

Martyn Mallick, vice-president of global alliances and business development, said there was "a huge swell of developers supporting BlackBerry 10", and the company was "literally working with hundreds and hundreds of partners right now".

Mallick said all of the major global social networks would have applications available for BlackBerry 10 at launch, namely Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Presenters demonstrated working versions of Cisco WebEx, Foursquare, Facebook and Shadowgun.

But a slide showing the developers for BlackBerry 10 didn't have hundreds of partners on it. It had 50. The standouts were Box.net, PressReader, TruPhone, TuneIn and Accuweather, but there were lots of magazine names (presumably for the upcoming BlackBerry Newsstand magazine store) padding out the list.

Mallick assured conference attendees that this wasn't the complete list. "What you see here is really just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "This is the list of partners that gave us permission to talk about what they're doing here at BlackBerry Jam. But you're going to see a huge number of additional partners come out between now and launch. This is really just a fraction of who we are working with."

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Other slides displayed during the keynote presentation showed apps and games that weren't specifically mentioned by the presenters, such as Adobe Reader, Docs to Go, Fruit Ninja and NOVA 3.

RIM will also be selling music, TV shows and movies for the first time in the BlackBerry App world with BlackBerry 10. This offering places it on a near-even keel with Apple's ecosystem when it comes to multimedia, and it makes the platform a strong sell against Android, which only has TV shows, movies and books, and Windows Phone, which only offers music.

RIM also made a passing reference to BlackBerry Newsstand during the presentation. Mallick said it would have "thousands of magazine titles" available, and one of the slides showed titles such as Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Conde Nast Traveller and Wired.

The apps and content RIM demonstrated at BlackBerry Jam are a good start, but it needs to persuade more big-name developers to make the jump to the new platform.

Dan Dodge, QNX founder and RIM's lead software architect, said this was something the company was "aggressively fixing".

"One of the lessons that we learnt from the PlayBook is that we launched before we actually had a big enough ecosystem of applications behind it," he said. "The goal was to get it out there. When BB10 launches, there will be a catalogue of massive numbers of applications."

Jenneth Orantia travelled to the BlackBerry Jam developer conference in San Jose, California, as a guest of RIM.

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