RIM losing some app developers, veterans sticking around
A customer plays with the Blackberry Playbook during the tablet's launch in Toronto Tuesday, April 19, 2011. (Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, June 26, 2011 8:33AM EDT
TORONTO - Even though at least two companies have recently said they're done making apps for Research in Motion, veteran developers believe there's no reason to bail on the embattled Canadian company.
Earlier this month, developer Mobile Roadie said BlackBerry apps just aren't popular enough to be worth their while. Last week, a similar announcement was made by Seesmic, which said it was halting support for its BlackBerry Twitter app to focus on the other mobile platforms.
Seesmic even directed users to BlackBerry apps made by its competitors.
But Polar Mobile, a Toronto-based app maker with about 300 customers in 10 countries, has no intention of giving up on BlackBerry.
"We have customers in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, India, Indonesia; these are countries where, on the smartphone side, RIM is an important device for our customers -- as is Android and iPhone -- so if we were to not be on RIM devices I think we'd get a lot of questions," said CEO Kunal Gupta.
Mobile Roadie, whose clients have included the likes of Madonna, Taylor Swift, Canadian rapper Drake and the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, said teams tasked with working on BlackBerry products struggled to keep pace with their counterparts coding for Apple and Android devices. And when comparing how their apps across the different platforms were being used, the BlackBerry numbers were dismal.
"Challenges included smaller screens, underpowered processors compared to iPhone/Android, and BES, BlackBerry's corporate enterprise service, that often wreaked havoc with our app's connection to our servers," the company wrote in a blog post.
"This wasn't an easy decision, but in the end, we determined that our resources are better spent on iPhone/Android, where users do frequently use apps, engage with them, and transact."
But David McAllister, vice president of operations for the Franklin, Tenn.-based Metova, said experienced coders who have put in several years learning the ins and outs of BlackBerry development likely won't be making the same decision.
"We've always had luck with BlackBerry, we built our own tools to help us improve development on BlackBerry to bring it in par with the Android and Apple iOS development tools and we just get great, great assistance from RIM," he said.
Among Metova's clients are the Associated Press, Cisco, Dropbox, eHarmony, Slacker Radio and Yelp, and McAllister said there continues to be strong interest in BlackBerry development.
"We're driven by what the market demands so if customers come to us and they want us to do BlackBerry development we are more than happy to do that for them," he said.
"And although it's not 80 or 90 per cent of our business like it was a few years ago, I'd say Android, BlackBerry and Apple iOS make up the vast majority and they're pretty much evenly split.
Gupta doesn't anticipate a flood of experienced developers will leave BlackBerry, although he doesn't expect RIM will attract many new recruits either.
"Experience definitely helps regardless of what you're doing, and I think on the RIM devices, if you're new to them you're not going to have too much success," he said.
"The technology appears to be challenging for people who don't have the experience and it is also a mindshare issue: RIM has got a lot of negative press in the U.S. and on the outside, without looking deeper, people will get scared away."
Gupta said developers are generally encouraged by the promise of a new operating system RIM is preparing to roll out, called QNX.
"QNX presents a new opportunity for guys like us to leverage a stronger OS that's more dynamic and flexible and built to scale," Gupta said, although he added that he's not sure how well QNX will work on smartphones, as opposed to more powerful tablets.
"I think from a smartphone perspective there could be challenges on taking a very powerful OS, arguably the most powerful OS out, and putting it onto lower-end versions of the BlackBerry."
McAllister, too, is excited about QNX's potential but wishes its release would be expedited.
"I think it's slow coming, I think everyone's eagerly waiting to see what RIM's going to do with QNX and I guess to some it up we're hopeful," he said.
"Anything that happens that's good for RIM is good for any professional services company like ours that develops apps, so I'm just hoping that it's worth it and what they come out with is competitive with Android and iOS."