RIM aggressively wooing developers to BlackBerry

With rivals Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google widening their lead in the race for smartphone supremacy, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is reportedly poised to introduce a series of new BlackBerry developer services, resources and tools in an effort to lure both programmers and consumers back to the platform. The Wall Street Journal reports RIM has spent more than two years to create a more developer-friendly BlackBerry environment--now, "we're so there," RIM head of application development Alan Brenner maintains. While details on the RIM initiatives are scarce, the device maker's efforts include new application payment options, including in-app purchases, according to Terry Hughes, head of market development at software firm Widality. The existing BlackBerry App World download and payment process is "horrible," Hughes tells the WSJ: "We couldn't make enough money to grow organically," despite the popularity of the Widality call-logging application.

RIM unveiled its new BlackBerry 6 mobile OS in early August, promising a redesigned user interface optimized for both touchscreens and trackpads, a new WebKit-based browser, expanded messaging features to simplify social media and RSS management, an upgraded multimedia experience and a new Universal Search tool. RIM is betting the new OS will boost its fortunes in the increasingly competitive smartphone marketplace--according to recent Nielsen Company data, BlackBerry remains the U.S. market leader, representing 35 percent of smartphone subscribers nationwide, followed by Apple's iPhone (28 percent), Microsoft's Windows Mobile (15 percent, down from 27 percent a year ago) and Google's Android (13 percent). However, only 42 percent of current BlackBerry users plan to stick with the platform when they make their next smartphone purchase.

Developer interest in BlackBerry is flagging as well. A recent survey published by mobile software platform provider Appcelerator and research firm IDC reports that only 34 percent of developers say they are "very interested" in creating BlackBerry applications--by comparison, 91 percent of developer respondents express strong enthusiasm in building apps for iPhone, with 82 percent stating comparable interest in Android.

"RIM today is not really on our radar," Andrew Stein, director of mobile business development for PopCap Games, the firm behind hit casual titles like Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies, tells The Wall Street Journal. PopCap created BlackBerry games several years ago, but abandoned the platform in favor of iOS and Android--according to Stein, the clunkiness of the BlackBerry OS and its slow processing speeds prompted the company to focus its efforts elsewhere: "They're not great gaming machines."

For more on RIM's comeback plan:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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