Following on the hugely successful iPhone AppStore and the more recent Google Android Market, Research In Motion (RIM) intends to launch its own Application Storefront for the BlackBerry in March. ZDnet interviewed the folks at RIM on their plans, which was published today, following RIM’s announcement Monday of accepting submissions from 3rd party developers.
Late last week, also came across this interesting newsletter from RIM where it appears that they are “priming the pump” for the future Application Storefront with a focus on managing/tracking health & wellness on one’s BlackBerry.
The iPhone has a commanding lead in the smartphone app market with over 10K apps today and nearly 500 dedicated to health & wellness. Momentum at the AppStore shows no sign of slowing. Android’s market is growing, albeit slowly despite its “open platform” approach.
Blackberry and its future Application Storefront will certainly see some success, after all there are some 21M active BlackBerry users. The big question is: Can the folks at RIM, who appear to be behind the 8-ball move out front and start gaining mind-share among consumers and 3rd party developers?
For developers RIM is providing a distribution model that is more attractive than Apple, and maybe less draconian. For BlackBerry app developers the revenue split will be 80/20, whereas Apple is getting 10% more with their 70/30 split. For consumers, if RIM can foster and encourage developers to create more engaging and interesting apps in market sub-sectors, e.g. health & wellness, that could create a significant area of differentiation.
Outside of gaming, where there really are some pretty amazing apps for the iPhone, apps in sub-sectors such as health & wellness are what one could call iPhone 1.0 apps characterized by:
- Simplistic interfaces
- Me too apps (really how many different BMI or pregnancy calculators do we need in the AppStore)
- Only modestly engaging and useful
To date, Apple and its 3rd party developers have done little to change that. Even the WebMD app when first introduced was pretty poor.
If RIM is able to open its Application Storefront doors with a selection of applications that take moble computing to the next level, they may indeed succeed in gaining mind-share and begin to influence the market. If, however, they open up those doors and show just more of the same, it is unlikely that they will ever catch-up and will just have to distantly follow in Apple’s footsteps.
(Full disclosure: On Feb 1st my T-mobile contract runs out, I sell my BlackBerry Pearl on Craigslist and hove to the Apple store I go.)