RIM has been one of the most talked about companies of 2011, albeit, not for all good reasons. Evidently, the year has been a tad sour for the company. Although, it may have lost the top spot in the U.S. market, the company claims to be doing well in Asia. At a conference held in Mumbai, RIM’s Head of Alliance and Developer Relations, Annie Mathew along with Sham Banerji – Chairman and CEO, i2i TeleSolutions, Kyati Bhulla – Product Manager, Sarla Analytics, Ranjit Singh – CEO, Manthan Studio, Ashwin Kandoi – Direcor, Winjit Technologies and Prashant Singh -Product Manager, Spice labs. Annie, along with BlackBerry app developers from across India put across the BlackBerry App World scenario in varying categories like games, health, spirituality, business and more.

The BlackBerry App World has been expanding with over 50,000 applications, over a billion downloads from the App World and 5M+ daily downloads. It supports 26 currencies and 400,000+ application developers across the world. BBM is one of the key and popular features among BlackBerry users with 50 million BBM subscribers.

According to Annie, the BBM connected apps are doing really well in the BlackBerry App World, calling it a horizontal category, rather than picking a standard category. Any app with BBM connectedness adds to the extra value. This has been trending in the BlackBerry App World, she adds. BBM APIs were made available to developers six months back and it has shown a tremendous rise since then and the uptake by the Indian community has been large. In fact, it is not just the BBM trend; the newer technologies have been widely accepted by the Indian app developers, like augmented reality and NFC.

On comparing to other platforms (read iOS and Android), Annie also says that BlackBerry has overcome many challenges and is improving by opening up more and more APIs to developers. She believes in putting the power in developers’ hands and the newer BB10 version is going to be phenomenal with advanced functionalities.


Developers speak

Now, this isn’t possible until the end of next year, but Annie says that BBM10 device will make it anytime around the second half of the year. All we can say, hope it’s not too late for BlackBerry.

The recent events haven’t been great at BlackBerry with the BBM outage and the most recent delay of the BBX device… we mean BlackBerry 10. The BlackBerry 10 is supposed to be RIM’s response to the improved OSes emerging from the mobile terrain. However, the device is said to be delayed until later next year, because the makers are awaiting the production of an essential chipset. Releasing products way long after their announcements is something we’ve seen BlackBerry doing for a long time now. With iOS, ICS, rumored Jelly Bean and Windows and Nokia alliance, BlackBerry needs to speed up. Waiting until later next year, may just cost BlackBerry more than expected.

App Developers Speak

BlackBerry is known to serve the corporate sector. However, in the last few years, a slew of well priced handsets have led to the device popularity in price sensitive markets like India also others in Asia. We spoke to some BlackBerry app developers to find out how difficult it is craft apps for BlackBerry, compared to other platforms like iOS and Android.


Developer demonstrates an app

Sham Banerji, Chairman and CEO of i2i Telesolutions who demoed some healthcare apps said that the difficulty level is almost same. Although, he felt that the PlayBook is a newer platform and there are initial hiccups, but the OS is user friendly and feels that the BlackBerry enterprise services play a key role. The information management, device management along with the BlackBerry enterprise creates an ecosystem, which is more valuable in healthcare, as some important factors are security of the data along with its storage over a longer period. They’ve chosen the PlayBook with certain selectivity and are looking forward towards a more holistic approach in the healthcare segment.

Prashant Singh, the Product Manager at Spice Labs says that in terms of tech availability, more or less every feature is made available on the BlackBerry platform. Moreover, the developer support and forums come in handy. He feels that the important aspect is what you want to serve and knowing the target audience.

Khyati Bhulla from Sarla Analytics feels that the challenges faced while creating apps for BlackBerry is the multiple screen devices. Unlike iOS, which has iPhone (or iPad), BlackBerry devices have different screen sizes. However, she says, “Its not pretty much a challenge but what I have to do is get the graphics to work for all the different screen sizes and that’s about it.” Khyati said that initial challenges are to know the technicalities to develop on BlackBerry, which gets simpler once you get access to developer support and forum. She discloses that BlackBerry apps are more popular among the Asian countries, compared to others, which has compelled them to bring the smartphone app onto the PlayBook. Another key aspect is the push API and getting to reach a specific target audience.

Evidently, BlackBerry App Word isn’t anywhere closer to its competitors, but has shown a gradual growth. Prashant also feels that there is no point in creating an app, which has many key presses for a touch phone, and it rather be created for a device with a physical keypad. Here again he emphasis on, why it is important to know the target audience and create the app, accordingly. He believes that platform is a technical choice and if there are lesser apps that doesn’t mean there is no demand. This would allow creating opportunities for developers.

Sham discloses that in the healthcare they are not looking for a larger consumer base and are aiming at helping doctors, medical specialists, and so on. It’s about a compelling medical app, screening apps, healthcare info system, diagnostic or reporting app, which is more important than the number of apps downloaded, he adds.

The Analytics app came across as pretty interesting and claims to work exactly in the same manner, irrespective of the device. It primarily focuses to get business data on mobile devices to allow viewing, analyzing and sharing data. Similarly, the healthcare app seemed quite interesting, too. If you look closely, these apps aim at the enterprise sector. Sticking to its roots, looks like the BlackBerry App World is more inclined towards the enterprise sector.

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