Toktumi’s Peter Sisson asks Is the BlackBerry Doomed? and goes on to compare his recent experience of developing for BlackBerry with his experience as an iPhone developer. Many of his complaints – non-standard hardware and OS versions in particular – are the same issues we ran into two years ago when we developed and delivered iotum’s Talk-Now presence application for BlackBerry. Ultimately we gave up on the BlackBerry, believing the return on investment of developing for the web would be higher. And, in fact, Calliflower on iPhone is a hybrid web / native application, proving that hypothesis. The bet that we’ve made is that web development will be as powerful on handheld devices as it is on computers.
RIM is addressing some of the issues that Peter raises already. In particular, an upgraded web browser is in the works, which will make hybrid development strategies like ours much more appealing. Moreover, the business terms for selling applications through BlackBerry AppWorld are more attractive than Apple’s iPhone App Store. However, there are still holes in RIMs strategy which need to be addressed.
In particular, the user experience associated with getting an application onto a BlackBerry is a pale shadow of the iPhone user experience.
- Installing an application on iPhone is a process of searching the App Store, clicking a download link, paying if necessary, and then a short wait.
- Installing an application on BlackBerry is a process of determining where to get the application – AppWorld, another store, or direct from the developer – downloading the application, accepting a bunch of scary but mostly incomprehensible security questions, and frequently accepting an often lengthy license agreement.
Why? When RIM announced the AppWorld, their strategy was to be:
- Carrier friendly, allowing multiple stores, including carrier specific stores.
- Developer friendly, sharing 80% of of the revenue with the developer of an application, and permitting applications to be delivered directly by the developer to the customer, without RIM’s approval.
As a strategy, RIM was attempting to find a position that would allow them to counter the complaints about Apple’s high-handed process. In courting carriers and developers with these concessions, however, RIM has created barriers to adoption of those applications by the customer, which may ultimately cause more harm than benefit.