RIM Announces BlackBerry 10, Woos Devs with $10K Per App Pledge
Research in Motion (RIM) today announced the BlackBerry 10, a new smartphone clearly aimed at regaining the market share it's been hemorrhaging over the last few years to market leaders iPhone and Android.
The announcement, in many ways, was made just as much to developers as to the general public, as RIM released a beta developer toolkit for the phone and gave developers at its BlackBerry World conference in Orlando a prototype phone to use for building and testing apps.
All this for a phone that won't even debut until "the latter part of 2012," according to RIM. The reason for the full-court developer press is obvious: smartphone success is founded largely on the apps available, and the BlackBerry 10, no matter how good it is as a device, will struggle with uptake if it doesn't have a solid app ecosystem in place at launch.
Alec Saunders, the company's vice president of developer relations, said as much to the New York Times in a story on the BlackBerry 10. According to Saunders, "We want to create a wave of application support behind the new BlackBerrys before we bring them to market ... If we launch without applications, well, it will be slow."
RIM is also putting its money where its mouth is, promising developers a profit of at least $10,000 for each app in its first year. The company made the announcement on Twitter, stating: "Quality certified apps submitted to App World before launch will earn at least $10,000 in the 1st year on the market." Tech Web site The Verge is reporting that RIM will make up the difference to developers for apps that meet certain requirements and make at least $1,000 but less than $10,000 during the first year on the market.
There are few details as of yet about the operating system that will undergird the BlackBerry 10, but the prototype phone is using the PlayBook OS that runs on RIM tablets, according to media reports. RIM stated in the press release that any apps created with the new tools will run on the current PlayBook tablets as well as the upcoming BlackBerry 10.
There are likely to be differences in the tablet and smartphone OSes, however, because RIM also said that the SDKs released today will be updated in the near future to provide access to "unique" capabilities in the BlackBerry 10.
One of the major differences between the prototype phone and current BlackBerries is the absence of a physical keyboard. Although one RIM executive said that the hardware on these alpha phones is far from final, a virtual keyboard is a standard feature on all competing phones.
That competition is way ahead of the BlackBerry, and RIM has a daunting task ahead to close the gap. Analytics firm comScore reported today that BlackBerry lost another 3.7 percent of market share in the first quarter of 2012, slipping to 12.3 percent. That places it in a fading third place, as Android and iPhone continue to pick up share. And Microsoft and Nokia have just released the Lumia 900, the phone that the companies hope will take its place in the smartphone pantheon.
So RIM is the last to the party, since it won't even show up until later this year. How well the developers it covets respond to the BlackBerry 10 may well determine whether it's allowed through the door, or that door is slammed in its face.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.