RIM adds BlackBerry app storefront, developer tools

In conjunction with last week's BlackBerry Developer Conference, Research In Motion announced both a new online application storefront and a new on-device application center promising to help developers and operators more effectively reach BlackBerry smartphone users worldwide. According to RIM, the online app storefront will go live in March 2009, although developers may begin submitting their applications and content for inclusion on the site in December--the store will give developers the flexibility to set their own prices and award them 80 percent of revenues generated from sales of their apps. RIM will partner with online payment service PayPal to offer consumers a secure mechanism to purchase apps directly from their BlackBerry devices.

Research In Motion adds it is also collaborating with its carrier partners to provide operator-customized, on-device application centers to nurture after-market application downloads. RIM has already launched an on-device distribution system for individual software applications, most notably the Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones application. According to leaked information obtained by enthusiast community Crackberry.com, the on-device BlackBerry Application Center will make its debut via the BlackBerry Storm version 4.7 operating system.

In other RIM news, the handset maker announced new versions of various BlackBerry developer tools, including a new public beta of the BlackBerry JDE Plug-in for Eclipse, which promises deeper integration with Eclipse and standard Java projects, pre-processing capabilities supporting a multi-build environment and support for the BlackBerry JDE component pack version 4.3.0 to version 4.7.0. Also noteworthy: New releases of the BlackBerry Plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio (enabling integration of customized mobile applications with core BlackBerry smartphone applications as well as compatibility with Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Vista), BlackBerry MDS Studio (including support for collaborative development, fully integrated JavaScript debugging, hotkeys, mobile application access controls and GPS location notifications) and Plazmic Content Developer's Kit for the BlackBerry platform (offering support for the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Pearl Flip smartphones as well as animated content creation).

RIM additionally touted the launch of BlackBerry Web Signals, which promises to leverage its push technology to automatically notify smartphone users when relevant content is published and enable one-click access to online information. According to RIM, BlackBerry Web Signals offers content providers a range of new services connecting consumers to news, weather, sports, entertainment and financial information based on their opt-in preferences, promising users will spend less time searching the mobile web. BlackBerry partners--including Thumbplay, the CBC and Dada Entertainment--are already planning Web Signals-based services.

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