SMARTPHONE DEVELOPER Research in Motion (RIM) will have to work much harder to attract apps coders for its Blackberry Playbook after its latest response to a developer's complaints.
Following a blog post by smartphone application developer Jamie Murai that claimed RIM not only made it hard for developers to get started but also that it was charging them more than Apple or Google to publish applications, RIM tried to address the issues by posting some blarney on its Blackberry Developer's Blog.
The context for this discussion is RIM's upcoming launch of its Blackberry Playbook tablet, a device that RIM is hoping its developers will adopt as their next big moneymaking opportunity. While Murai's points were supported with examples and facts, Tyler Lessard, head of Blackberry developer relations and programmes didn't do a very good job of addressing his complaints.
While Lessard said that Murai's points were fair, he replied to Murai's point that RIM will be charging developers $200 to submit up to 10 applications by saying, "We are continuing to evolve this process and remain committed to ensuring developers can register and submit apps at no cost." That was not exactly the same as saying the onerous developer fee will be dropped. Instead, it only offered a vague suggestion encouraging developers to hope for an evolving process that might or might not remain too costly for them, and certainly will affect the viability of their businesses.
Lessard continued in that wishy-washy tone, saying, "We will be making a concerted effort over the next few weeks to publish more information to help our developers be successful in developing for Playbook." In what seemed like a patronising tone, Lessard continued, "For those of you who are having challenges getting started today, we'll be providing some updated information on our site to help you understand exactly what steps you need to take to get up and running with the latest Beta tools."
Given that Lessard's reply to Murai lacked any real information and read more like a damage limitation exercise, it wasn't surprising to see others complain about the blog entry. James Moore was initially sceptical of Murai's post, but after reading Lessard's comments he said, "I'm now thinking that your senior management people are actively opposed to creating a developer community. Not just indifferent, but they really, deeply don't want it to happen."
Another reader going by the name of Brad said, "This is not the way to run a developer program. All of Jamie's concerns would have been obvious to anyone talking to a real smartphone developer. It defies credibility to suggest RIMM themselves wouldn't know these things."
Lessard's post also drew some positive comments, with developers saying that they liked the quick response. But was it really a response? Lessard didn't mention any specifics, and given that developers have the choice of developing for Apple's IOS, Google's Android and HP's WebOS instead of RIM's Playbook, there is no shortage of other shop fronts for their coding wares.
While Murai's complaints about installing the various software development kits might not be show stoppers for developers, his point that Apple and Google are charging $100 and $25 respectively for developers to upload unlimited numbers of applications on their respective application stores could gain some traction.
Instead of undercutting its competition, RIM doubled the coding price of Apple and added a 10 application limit, meaning that developers will have to spend $200 for every 10 applications they want to put up on RIM's Playbook tablet store. Lessard's claim that RIM is working towards free application submission, without actually announcing that the excessive and ill-advised developer charge had been discontinued, could result in many developers either waiting until that happens or just not bothering with the Playbook altogether.
One look at Google's Android developer zone, which took up most of Hall 7 at Mobile World Congress, should make you realise how much importance Google places on its developer relations. It seems that RIM has a long way to go before it will realise that developers have options and their interest and time must be earned by understanding and providing what they, and not RIM, need to make developing software for the company's products worth their while.
The truth is that RIM has to offer much more than Apple or Google if it wants developers to spend their valuable time porting applications to what looks like just another tablet. At present it looks like even the basics aren't in place. And RIM isn't doing the right things to find help. µ
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