Yesterday RIM announced the BlackBerry Application Storefront and BlackBerry Application Center, their response to the undeniable success that Apple has had with the iPhone AppStore. Kudos to RIM for creating opportunities for developers outside the carrier orbit, and for paying attention to customer experience when it’s clearly the winning strategy here. Moreover, RIM’s choice to go with PayPal for payment processing is a fabulously consumer friendly move as — much better than Apple’s model of keeping the consumer’s credit card on file and all of the attendant risks associated. I can well imagine the debate these two decisions provoked inside RIM HQ in Waterloo. It’s a welcome move in the right direction.
In another departure from Apple, RIM is also charging the developer just 20% of the revenue earned on the application. This decision is less significant though. 20% versus 30% is irrelevant when the keys are reach and positioning in the storefront channel. Put the BlackBerry App Storefront on every handset and developers won’t mind paying a little more.
It’s not about the shelving fees!
Last night I had a short twitter exchange with some friends from Microsoft who took a poke at the 30% fee charged by Apple implying that it was some kind of outrageous tax. They’re missing the point. Developers don’t mind paying a reasonable fee for distribution and retailing. The business has always run that way, even in the old days when Ingram, Micro-D, and Softsel were the distribution giants. Distributors warehoused goods, broke bulk, and carried credit on behalf of the channel. Distribution is a good and important business. The only difference is that today’s distributors are electronic, the warehouses are servers, and the storefronts are applications on handsets.
RIM is probably leaving a little money on the table, but at least they get it. Microsoft is totally missing the point.