Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RIM's Developer Dilemma

There's been quite a bit of news lately regarding RIM's efforts to entice developers to join the BlackBerry bandwagon.

First, RIM released some stats on BlackBerry App World, stating they have about 20,000 apps for the Playbook, without mentioning the quality of the apps.

Secondly, ReadWriteWeb had an interesting infographic about mobile app stores that showed 13% of BlackBerry developers have made more than $100k from their apps. Impressive, but remember the number of available apps (and developers) are significantly lower than iOS.

However, the stats are meaningless given the consumers' perception. The data linked above are only pertinent to developers, one half of RIM's problem.

This leads me to RIM's current dilemma: the diverging incentives of consumers and developers.

Consumers expect all the popular titles that are available on iOS and Android, apps like Angry Bird Space, Netflix, Skype, Infinity Blade, etc... on their mobile device. They won't consider a smartphone or tablet that won't have those apps.  The obscure apps, irrespective of quality, won't cause consumers to purchase a BB10 device.

On the flip side, RIM is targeting the app developers by telling them they can get noticed in App World due to the limited number of titles already compared to the iOS or Android markets, both of which have a lot of repetitive apps. A fair point, but this only applies to smaller developers, not to the Rovio's and Netflix's of the world. The big developers already have well known titles, they don't need to be "discovered". They will not be enticed by a platform that only has 1M users at the moment along with an unknown growth rate.

Therein lies the problem:
BlackBerry's App World may offer higher returns for the smaller developers, but the smaller developers won't draw in the consumers. Instead, the consumers are drawn by the well-known titles, whose developers may not be interested in Playbook/BlackBerry 10's small audience.
It's a difficult problem. Ultimately, it is the consumers who bring in the dollars so convincing (read: paying) the big dev shops to bring their app to BlackBerry should be priority #1. This would be supported by easing the development process, which RIM is finally starting to understand.

RIM's focus on 3rd-party development (in terms of toolsets, outreach, and documentation) has been fantastic in the past year or so. They've done the following:
  • new streamlined application submission process
  • new set of tools (NDK 2.0)
  • embraced existing popular (non-RIM) libraries for easier portability
  • contributed to open source initiatives (Webkit, Qt)
  • involved in the community (GitHub, Dev Events, social media, etc...)
These are monumental changes and a complete shift in corporate behaviour; very impressive that this turnabout could happen so quickly in a large organization. I can only imagine the fights they must have had with the internal Legal department regarding some of these initiatives.

However, will all this be enough to convince Netflix, Rovio, Epic Games, etc... to spend the resources to port their games to the BB10 platform?

Let's hope so. 

1 comment:

Umang said...

Rovio & Halfbrick (makers of Fruit ninja & Jetpack Joyride) are already onboard, C & C++ is being used in here, thats what iOS & Android apps work with too.

For example :
http://www.fishlabs.net/en/blog/entering-premium-space-galaxy-on-fire-2-hd-blazes-onto-the-playbook/

For PpL interested, BB10 Jam sessions are on their facebook page.