Let’s be blunt—Research in Motion has an image problem. The smartphone maker’s market share is being eroded by Apple and makers of phones running Google’s Android mobile operating system. RIM’s PlayBook tablet has been a dud thus far. And the Canadian company suffered a massive service outage throughout the world at the worst possible time, right as rival Apple was launching its new iPhone 4S and just before RIM’s DevCon developer conference in San Francisco this week.
At DevCon, RIM briefly apologized for the outage before spending much of the rest of the event evangelizing its new BBX operating system, which blends the BlackBerry OS that runs its smartphones and the QNX platform that’s the foundation of the PlayBook. BBX is coming out at a date uncertain, however, and in the meantime, RIM has updated QNX for its tablet with a version it calls PlayBook 2.0.
Will all of this be enough to get consumers excited about its products again and developers itching to build apps for its App World market? RIM executives had a mantra at DevCon—it’s more profitable to build apps for BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook than it is to build them for Apple’s iOS devices and Android. That’s a sweet carrot, to be sure, though it’s a little tough to pin down the metrics RIM is using to reach that conclusion.
PCMag sat down with Alex Kinsella, senior product manager of RIM’s BlackBerry App World, to find out more about what the company is doing for developers and how it plans to win over consumers going forward.
PCMag: One of the interesting points you guys have stressed at DevCon is the profitability of being a BlackBerry developer versus a developer for iOS or Android. Could you go a little deeper into those numbers and explain them? Is that based on average return for an app you develop?
Kinsella: It’s actually just looking at the number of purchases of a specific title across categories, and then looking at the number of developers who have made more than $ 100,000 on our platform, and I think really, that’s the most impressive stat.
PCMag: Does it skew more towards enterprise app developers?
Kinsella: No, it’s a good mix of everything. And that’s one of the things I like. And whether it’s on BlackBerry or on PlayBook today, there’s a good mix of enterprise applications, productivity, personalization, and games. So it does stretch the gamut of what’s available and the sales represent that. Then again, a lot of people have said it’s the number of apps in your catalog, and when you look at we have compared to our competitors, and it’s an advantage for many of our developers. It’s being able to go out there and to be able to say, ’500,000 apps is indicative of developer interest in your platform, 100 percent true. But it’s not indicative of developer success on your platform.’ And success is number of users using your app and sales. We’re at 47,000, almost 50,000 apps. Awesome. We’re going to be at 100,000 one day, we’re going to be at 200,000. And what can we take from our competitors, missteps that they’ve made that they’re trying to correct, so how do we build in that we’re not going to do the same things that hurt discoverability both from the consumer and developer side.
MORE: Kinsella on preparing RIM’s developer ecosystem for the arrival of BBX.