Some Commonly Asked Questions About the State of the BlackBerry Platform


With the delay of BlackBerry 10, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about RIM and its platform’s health. It’s hard to say much these days as there’s a lot of uncertainty around how well BlackBerry 10 will perform, what’s going on with PlayBook, and whether there’s an automotive angle or another vertical in the works. Here are a few popular questions we’ve been getting and my answers. Feel free to add your own thoughts on these questions. As I said, it’s all pretty up in the air so any and all opinions welcome.

blackberry 10

Do you believe HTML5/PhoneGap will allow for a true cross-platform capability?

I don’t believe that’s the point. Most companies and developers know that HTML5/PhoneGap provides a less than ideal user experience and the non-native approach and it’s more about testing the waters. For example, I may want to do a native version for iPhone and test the BlackBerry download market with an HTML5 version as it’s a lower barrier to entry. You can always update the app with a native version down the road if you like the initial numbers. RIM is just allowing developers many points of entry into the platform and that makes a lot of sense. But at the end of the day, everyone knows a true commitment requires native.

What’s your take on the discrepancy between some of BBJam’s developer growth claims versus the media reports of mass declines in developers?

I think they’re probably both right. As someone who was at BlackBerry Jam, there were plenty of developers eager to get on the platform. The European and Asian interest is huge for BlackBerry too. But at the same time, we’ve seen many startups avoid BlackBerry as well as festivals increasingly ignoring the BlackBerry market. So could they both be right? Perhaps the media is simply talking about a different type of developer or a different market.

RIM is doing a great job at bringing new developers to mobile. For example, at this year’s Ottawa Game Conference, I got the impression that the indie game community was excited about PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. A lot of the indie game community uses Adobe Flash and AIR which doesn’t port well to iOS. PlayBook’s Adobe support means these developers now can go mobile with relative ease. On the other hand, if you’re a mobile gaming startup, you’re probably ignoring PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 until the subscriber numbers increase. So in this sense, RIM is making both gains and losses.

Do you think that BBM will help retain RIM’s prepaid customers?

Probably not. From an anecdotal standpoint, my BBM list as well as most of my friends’ who are still on BlackBerry have seen their BBM Contacts list draining. From a purely North American perspective, the drain in subscribers is going to affect BBM and its impact on customer retention. In terms of Asia and Latin America, BBM is probably going better than ever. It’s hard to comment on that though. Does BBM even result in customer retention in Asia and Latin America? Surely there’s many more reasons why these customers are staying with prepaid. At the end of the day though, BBM is only effective if you’ve got your best friends using it. In North America, this is becoming increasingly rare.

Everyone mentions BB10 feels like the PlayBook, but the PlayBook could be called either a flop or a very successful seeding, and one would hope the BB10 is far more than a PlayBook. I’d like to understand your initial impressions of the Dev Alpha device.

Whoa, whoa, simmer down sparky. There’s BlackBerry 10, PlayBook and the Dev Alpha device all mentioned in that question and they’re all worth giving some individual attention.

BlackBerry 10: Based on the same OS as PlayBook (QNX), the first release of BlackBerry 10 won’t look or feel like PlayBook. The most important similarity between PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 will be the apps. Developers will be able to port their apps over from PlayBook to 10 with relative ease, therefore seeding the initial smartphones with software. This is a smart move that I wish BlackBerry had done with its previous devices. There was a device roadmap leak recently that hinted towards a BlackBerry 10 update for the PlayBook, so it should be interesting to see how the two operating systems look after the launch of BlackBerry 10.

BlackBerry 10 Demo on YouTube at this link (for mobile).

Dev Alpha Device: In order to help developers get from PlayBook to BB 10, RIM has seeded many interested devs with a testing device. The device is not even worth talking about in terms of its features or as a smartphone. It is purely for developers to test with and it’s essentially a PlayBook with a smaller screen and radio.

So yes, BB 10 will be far more than a PlayBook at first, but down the road the look and feel might converge a little. More importantly, BlackBerry 10 will be far more with a PlayBook. RIM still has some tricks up its sleeves when it comes to how all of this will integrate. I have confidence that RIM will show off some pretty cool integration between the smartphone, tablet and automotive. It’s all there in the QNX OS.

Any thoughts on developer health/RIM’s app ecosystem following the delay to Q1 2013?

The BlackBerry 10 delay is a tough pill to swallow. For developers, it’s definitely a pain as they’ve invested all this time in developing for BlackBerry 10, only to find out they won’t have a single smartphone customer until potentially March 2013. RIM will definitely have to pull a few special promotions between now and Q1 2013 to keep PlayBook sales going. The new radio-enabled PlayBook is supposed to come between now and the BlackBerry 10 launch which will hopefully garner some sales and boost the app ecosystem. I’d like to see the PlayBook OS get some powerful updates that will get them some positive media attention and build up some hype on the way to the new PlayBook launch. Ideally, we’d see PlayBook OS 2.5 or 3.0 launch in conjunction with the new PlayBook 4G.

  • Voodoovaj

    The Ottawa Game Conference is a regional event. Regional indie developers are eager for almost anything. To get a proper sense of the drive to be on Blackberry, you have to make a big splash at an IGDA GAme Developer’s Conference or E3.

  • Kyle McInnes

    Good point. RIM actually had a great presence at GDC. Many of the BlackBerry sessions I attended at GDC were almost full. You could argue it’s because they thought they were getting free PlayBooks but the end result is the same. I'd argue E3 is more for console and definitely not indie devs. Maybe PAX is where RIM should make a big presence next.

  • bramptom flower delivery

     RIM is just allowing developers many points of entry into the platform and that makes a lot of sense. But at the end of the day, everyone knows a true commitment requires native.

  • David

    Have been using blackberry for so,so long. Looking ahead to the next 12 months for what rim will unleash on the world will be very exiting indeed! I have a lot of friends that like my playbook much,much more than their ipad