BlackBerry 10 Launches with 70,000 Apps
It's no secret that a smartphone will not succeed without a healthy ecosystem of apps. The two leaders in the space -- Apple and Google -- each have in excess of 700,000 apps in their stores. Microsoft famously claimed that it would have 100,000 apps in its Windows Store by the end of January. It fell far short of that goal: reports vary, but most media accounts have estimated that Windows Store has surpassed 40,000 apps.
So if raw numbers are any indication, BlackBerry has had a tremendous start for its just-released smartphone, the Z10, with 70,000 apps available at launch in the BlackBerry World store.
The real question, however, is not how many apps are available, but whether the apps that consumers want are available. That is a more open-ended question in BlackBerry's case.
BlackBerry does have some of the most-popular apps, like Skype, Amazon Kindle and Angry Birds. But it's missing some big ones, too, and they include one of the must-haves: Instagram. There is no Netflix, either. A BlackBerry executive told The Verge that the company is "in talks" to develop those apps, but that's a long way from having a downloadable product.
Other apps, like Facebook and Dropbox, are available, but they were built by BlackBerry, not by the original companies. That suggests that some of the large players aren't convinced of BlackBerry's market potential, and are taking a "wait and see" attitude. And the BlackBerry-built versions of those apps don't always work the same, or have the same functionality, of their Android and iPhone counterparts.
Still, 70,000 apps is a very significant number -- in fact, it's more than any smartphone platform has ever had at launch. Some of that number is likely due to the intense courting of developers done by BlackBerry, including a promise that qualifying apps will make at least $10,000 in their first year. BlackBerrys also have a long history of popularity, of course.
But that was before the smartphone era. BlackBerry (the company officially changed its name from Research in Motion) has been losing money and market share for years, and is also very late to the smartphone dance, which is still dominated by the iPhone and Android platforms. That doesn't mean the new BlackBerry stand a chance; only that it will need to two almost contradictory things very well: first, differentiate its devices from iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 8, while at the same time offering the same name-brand apps that those competitors already have.
It also faces the chicken-and-egg conundrum: many developers will hold off on building apps for BlackBerry until they're convinced of its viability in the market; but its viability may largely be determined by whether enough of the right kinds of apps are available.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.