Why $10,000 isn't enough to buy BlackBerry developer loyalty

Shane Schick

It's hard to buy developer loyalty, but the last thing a platform provider can afford is to be perceived as a deadbeat. 

As if it wasn't difficult enough for BlackBerry to get more apps created for BB10, recent controversy over a botched developer contest probably will not help matters. Earlier this month the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker issued an apology for changing the closing date on the contest from this year to last year. This was a fairly important revision, because the basic premise of the contest was that developers who earned more than $1,000 and less than $10,000 for a new BB10 app over a 12-month period would get money from BlackBerry to reach the $10K mark.  

Based on the statement from BlackBerry, this could have just been an honest mistake: 

"On 4 March, 2014, the BlackBerry $10k Developer Commitment program came to an end. At that time, it came to our attention that there were discrepancies between the original terms and conditions and a related blog post originally published on 2 March, 2013," the company said. "We corrected the blog post to accurately reflect the official program dates. We are honoring all eligible submissions received by the deadline as outlined in the official terms and conditions, or the original blog post. We can assure you that nobody who qualified will be missing out."

Of course, it's not like BlackBerry is the only one to have suffered such snafus. Samsung's PR agency was accused of turning a contest into outright bribery, and Salesforce was caught up in considerable controversy over a hackathon with a $1 million prize. The details in this case don't really matter. What matters is that BlackBerry continues to come up short on third-party apps, and contests like this don't really make much of a difference. 

Consider the economics of the deal first and foremost. Beyond a promise to make up the difference of $10,000 for a BB10 app, how is BlackBerry really helping to turn more of the app developer moonlighters into sustainable businesses? If developers can't really generate $10,000 off an app on their own--and that threshold would be far beyond even most iOS and Android developers--what long-term value will the $10K provide to the BB10 app's users? 

When it was revealed last year that an astonishing one-third of BlackBerry apps all come from a single developer (SB44), the company has been under the gun to prove it has created a viable ecosystem that will keep its Apps World store healthy. The contest controversy is just another sign it hasn't quite gotten its act together. It is equally obvious that BB10 is not competing with Android or iOS but other third-place contenders such as Windows Phone 8 or even Tizen. The features of the platform, the installed base and the hardware supporting it should all drive developer adoption. They shouldn't need 10,000 other reasons to stay motivated.--Shane