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New Beginnings @BlackBerryDev

In early 1999, I experienced a technology that would change the world.  From the backseat of a taxi in Las Vegas, I edited a press release on a RIM 950 Inter@Active pager.  It was an early device, with email but no real PIM capability to speak of.  Still, it was enough to open my eyes to the potential of wireless email. And, shortly after, employees all across the Microsoft campus where I worked at the time were carrying these devices, as they became the de rigeur technology that year.

On July 25th, I joined RIM’s QNX subsidiary as their Vice President of Developer Relations and Ecosystems Development, and today it’s public that I’m now Vice President, Developer Relations for all of RIM.  Over on the RIM DevBlog you can find a short interview with me, describing my role. (Shout-out to Andy Abramson, who reported this on Sunday… always the bloodhound.)

Over the last few days I’ve been in San Francisco at the Mobilize conference, and speaking with developers.   It’s clear from those conversations that the primary problem we face is lack of support from application developers.  My team’s job is to correct that – to win the hearts and minds of mobile developers again.

The good news is that we have plenty of great people to help with this challenge, and a wonderful story that’s largely untold.  Today, there are more than 120 million downloads per month from AppWorld, the RIM application store.     And according to Evans Data, BlackBerry is the best platform for making money as a mobile developer.  You might get more downloads with the competition, but with BlackBerry you can actually make a living!  That’s a novel concept, I know…

And speaking personally, the best part is that I get to work with the software development community again.  For most of my career – whether it was the early days of Microsoft C7, the 1993 launch of MS-DOS 6, the trench warfare of the Windows 95 vs OS/2 battle, the Internet Explorer vs Netscape battle, or the launch of QNX Momentics – I’ve worked with developers, platforms, and ecosystems.  Authoring this blog for the last 9 years has been a constant reminder of how much I enjoyed doing that.

It feels great to be in the thick of it once more.


P.S. We’re hiring developer evangelists – technical articulate people with a passion for mobile platforms.  Interested?  Contact me at alec dot saunders at rim dot com.

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{ 15 comments… add one }

  • ekkescorner September 28, 2011, 12:00 pm

    these are great news for blackberry developers :)
    it's good to see you at this position with a long history and developer skills.
    cu at DevCon in SFO.
    … and here's my first wish 😉 we need a Java SDK on QNX for tablet and smartphones.

  • @zachthezman September 28, 2011, 12:47 pm

    I think for all the theme developers out there when I say, we really need tools for OS7 devices and overall less flakey tools. The Theme Studio is pretty good, but without knowledge of SVG coding, you're pretty much left in the dark on what you can TRULY do when it comes to theme/ui "overhaul" or "enhancement"

    It would be HUGE and NICE if RIM would provide documentation on all of the ins and outs of the BB homescreen SVG items (ie: date, time, network, etc.) so that we don't have to jump through hoops to figure out how to control everything.

    I look forward to what you can / will do to make things better.

  • mattroberts September 28, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Congrats Alec!

  • Del Simmons September 28, 2011, 2:14 pm


    Congratulations on the new role! I'm really excited to see you taking over this position. We Playbook users desperately need the development community to get back on board with Playbook development. The platform as a whole has been suffering for lack of mainstream apps and we have a lot of catching up to do.

    One area where you could quickly have a HUGE impact in restoring the faith of Mobile Developers worldwide is to quickly get to the bottom of the clusterf**k with Shape Systems and their application IM+ for the Playbook. Developers everywhere have been watching how RIM has put these poor guys through the ringer, holding up their approval and completely ignoring their requests for updates. Many developers have told me personally that they are holding off on making big investments in Playbook development efforts until this issue with Shape gets resolved and they know they won't be treated the same way..

    If you're not familiar with this whole ugly mess, more info can be found at the following URLs..

    If you could reach out to Maria Dyatlova and Igor Berezovsky at Shape and make this right, it would really demonstrate to the dev community that you are personally "in it to win it" with this new position at RIM and you're ready to make a difference.

    Tyler Lessard was trying to do that, it seems, but he ended up dropping the ball when he left and now all the users are left hanging with Shape..

    • Del Simmons September 28, 2011, 11:42 pm

      Oops, Sorry I misspelled your name in this post Alec.. Also, for the record, Alec told me on Twitter tonight that he was going to look into this situation with Shape. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, Sir! Please let us know what you find out and when we will see IM+ for Playbook in AppWorld!

      And if your quick response to my request is indicative of how you do business then I believe there are great things in store for the QNX dev community with you in this new role.

      Thanks again!

  • Mac Taylor September 28, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Good luck with the new job Alec! Lots of great opportunities. I'll be watching closely.

    Best, Mac

  • @danyork September 28, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Congrats, Alec! You certainly have your work cut out for you, but if anyone can make this happen, you can! I'll be looking forward to seeing what you do to try to woo those developers back.

  • @martyndavies September 28, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Good to hear it. Congratulations, Alec.

  • allan isfan September 29, 2011, 10:00 am

    Alec .. I think this sucks … any time an amazing entrepreneur chooses to go to the dark side is a sad day for entrepreneurship. Having said that, they need you and we (app developer community) need you in this job so perhaps this ends up being a positive for entrepreneurship overall. To be honest, as a company, we have stayed away from developing apps on blackberry for a bunch of reasons. We should chat. You know how to get a hold of me.

  • MGU September 29, 2011, 3:18 pm

    RIM is very lucky, Alec. Your Dad

    PS Your Mum agrees with me,

    • asaunders September 30, 2011, 12:34 pm

      Thanks Dad!

  • GregoryV October 3, 2011, 4:05 pm

    Alec, interesting stuff. I think what RIM needs to do is acknowledge the other platforms and choices users have instead of isolating developers and itself into the black box. It would be hugely helpful if RIM could tap into the customers lost to Apple and Google. BBM is a good start, but business IT departments would rather leverage a BES server and let that connect to whatever device the end user decides. RIM should figure out a way to license those devices and of course have the end users pay fees for the privilege of using BES on Apple and Google OS devices. It would be fantastic if RIM could detach itself from the hardware and focus some on the power of their enterprise software.

    As a side note, could RIM please develop an internal app that lets users change profiles based on the time of day… There are 3rd party apps out there, but they do not have access to bypass screen locks which businesses require. Hence, I have to manually change the profile every day, twice a day at 8am and 5pm from ring to silent and back again. Annoying :)

  • Daniel Perez October 23, 2011, 10:13 pm

    Please add the following to the PlayBook 2.0:

    1. Native PIM apps.
    2. Universal search.
    3. Bluetooth support.
    4. The ability to right top swipe in any application to show background apps and stock, weather, sports scores (customizeable) like the format in Gee Reader in PlayBook.
    5. Leave thumbnails small ( like to see my open apps).

    I have an ideal for a voice app named Hal:
    – This app would have access to email, sms, memopad, bbm, Blackberry Traffic (Voice navigation), browser (google, yahoo, msn), Blackberry protect, voice recorder, alarm, timer, calculator, weather, pandora, slacker, camera, video camera. Hal csn activate and close all open apps
    – Hal can lock/unlock phone.
    – Hal can turn on /off phone.
    – Hal requires voice identification to use ( more than one person can eecord their voice to use phone, if user permits.

  • Slavic December 2, 2011, 1:36 am


  • Carlos Longarela May 4, 2012, 10:26 am

    Excelent article, I begin my job working with the notepad for create ASP pages with SQL Server and a hard work with IE and Netscape… now my job is with very good free tools like Eclipse and others… I love WebWorks (in a short time I'll publish a Spanish Book about programming with webworks for PlayBook and BB10), now all the work is amazing

    Are you hiring developer evangelists? technical articulate people? now is too late??

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