RIM asks developers to keep loving BlackBerry. Do I say 'I do'?

RIM asks developers to keep loving BlackBerry. Do I say 'I do'?

Summary: It all comes down to where you want to spend your money: On an unproven platform that happens to be running late, or a platform that has actual customers?

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Today saw the start of BlackBerry Jam Americas - RIM's developer conference designed to get the word out to those targeting the BlackBerry platform. RIM's message - "developers, we still love you. Will you love us back?"

I'm a developer, so I guess they're asking me. What's my answer? Will I love RIM back?

Is love enough?
During the event, RIM put out a video called "Devs, BlackBerry is Going to Keep on Loving You". The blurb on the YouTube posting contains an interesting word - can you spot it?

This video is a thank you to all developers supporting the BlackBerry platform. Your Developer Relations, Alliance and Developer Tools teams appreciate your enthusiasm and loyalty! We're Going To Keep On Loving You. Shown at BlackBerry Jam Americas Sept 2012.

Loyalty.

They've clearly put a ton of effort into the event, and the video is just one example. It all tells us that RIM knows that developers are important, but it also implies they're worried about a drift away from the platform. And why shouldn't they be? The organisation's steady decline over the past few years has likely got them so used to being abandoned by all and sundry that they're desperate to keep developers clinging on to their platform - whether it's currently burning or not. They need what developers they do have to stay on-board and build apps for BB10. Having a new mobile phone platform with no apps would be - well, for most companies you'd say "disaster", but RIM's already past "disaster".

(And in fairness they do have a lot of developers - 105,000 apps in App World, apparently.)

See also: RIM's BlackBerry 10: Why I still believe | RIM banking on BlackBerry Balance, HTML5, BYOD trend | BlackBerry fragmentation is the spectre that haunts RIM | RIM waves cash at developers ahead of BlackBerry 10 launch

Follow the money
Logically, seeing as BB10 isn't actually a thing that exists in the market and no one can buy them, its market presence must be zero. With no one owning the phones, you can't exactly tap them up and ask them to buy your new app.

With no credit-card equipped end-users, the only money available within the BB10 system has to be speculative spending. Thus, as a developer, the only reason why you'd spend any money developing BB10 apps is if you believe - hand on heart - that there will be enough devices out there to deliver a return on your investment.

And software isn't funded using love and kisses. Let's talk actual money...

If you're doing it properly as a full-time business, you need a minimum of $400k a year to build a baseline software company. That's enough for you and another principal in the business to make enough money, have enough of a buffer to keep stress at bay, to pay for some marketing, and toys. At a dollar a pop, you need to shift 400,000 units - oh, and RIM takes 30% of what you make, so you'll actually need to shift 571,429 units.

That's fine, but there are a grand total of "0" BB10 customers out there at the moment. Selling 571,429 units to zero customers would challenge even the most skilled salesperson.

But, there are 80 million "normal" pre-BB10 subscribers. Selling 571,429 units into a market of 80 million customers is much easier. That's less than 1% of the market.

So is this then what the loyalty message is about? "Darling, I still love you - will you stay with me whilst I try and migrate these 80 million customers over to my new platform? Say you will, darling!"

It's a difficult sell. I'll need to think about it. How long do you think it might take to transition 80 million customers to a new phone platform? Oh, and you might lose some of those customers to iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone.

And that's half the story...
Bleeding developers is one thing. What about on-boarding new developers?

So the pitch here is: don't spend development time and money delivering for a platform that actually has phones used by paying customers;  instead, developers should invest in an entirely unproven phone platform.

But RIM's growth in very recent times - especially that previously linked story of a surprise two million subscriber increase that pinged RIM's stock up by 6% today - is growth coming from emerging markets. Do customers in emerging markets tend to spend a lot of money on apps? Hard to say - but we do know that RIM's presence in markets where app sales metrics are well-known and well-understood is declining. RIM has traditionally done well in providing return to developers, but will that same story play in markets that are described as "emerging"?

Conclusion
In the end, this all comes down to where you want to spend your money. If you had $20k to spend on developing an app today, would you spend it on an unproven platform that happens to be running late, and that also doesn't actually exist yet? Or would you spend it on a platform that has actual customers, and some proven ability to deliver sales?

Regardless of how many dozens of red roses it sent me, if I had any close involvement with RIM at this point I'd be filing for divorce.

Love is blind. Profit certainly isn't.

Want to discuss? Post a comment, or contact me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topics: BlackBerry, Apps, Mobile OS, Software Development

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34 comments
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  • Are you sure?

    "..Logically, seeing as BB10 isn't actually a thing that exists in the market and no one can buy them, its market presence must be zero. With no one owning the phones, you can't exactly tap them up and ask them to buy your new app..."

    Aren't there a lot of Playbooks that will run the same apps? How much different will the apps need to be between the current Playbooks and the BB10 Playbooks and phones?
    Susan Antony
    • Bought a Playbook 32GB at Staples

      It's a xmas gift for my spouse but after updating the o/s, I'm definitely tempted to keep it for myself. It's definitely different from my Android and even my iPad-using friend is thinking of getting one for himself.

      And yes, it does and will run the new apps. So there is already a market for any new apps.

      And as for tethering to a BB device, I did everything via WiFi. No tethering needed.
      mheartwood
  • Not sure

    "...With no credit-card equipped end-users, the only money available within the BB10 system has to be speculative spending..."

    Not sure what you mean. I can tie my BlackBerryID to my credit card to buy apps, can't you?
    Susan Antony
    • Not sure ...

      ... you needed second post to make this point.
      RationalGuy
      • It's not

        It's not the same point. The first point is that there are devices that can currently use the same apps. The second point is those apps can be paid for on Playbooks through a credit card.
        How are these the same points?
        Susan Antony
        • Over a thousand years ago ...

          ... a system of glyphs later known as the Indo-Arabic Numeral System was developed to represent numbers. Besides using this glyphs to perform mathematical calculations, it's also possible to use them to create numbered lists. For example, if you are making distinct multiple points about the same subject, you can list them all together. Then, if people want to discuss individual points, they can refer to them by the relevent glyph. If people want to discuss the gestalt of all of your points, there they are in a single convenient place.
          RationalGuy
      • RationalGuy ... that's a funny

        avatar name for a blatant troll .. and, more than just a little ironically, way off reality.

        I don't believe RIM's asking the dev's to do anything outlandish .. it's just a straight forward plea to not write off a platform with great potential. Now before you start ranting, i'm well aware how RIM dropped the ball in recent years, but they're not the only company to do so. I also genuinely believe they are just making sure that they don't repeat any bad moves by ensuring BB OS10 is completely ready (ergo: not rushing the release).

        Only a fool would ignore or not consider the products and applications from a company like RIM that has proven pedigree and a track record of putting out great mobile devices.

        While the blog author has some valid points, i actually think (like many folk in the opposite court) that he, and people with the same take, are jumping the gun. Let's at least wait and see when BB OS10 hits RTM before 'taking measurements for the pine box'.

        As for you? If you've nothing constructive (critical or otherwise) to add, head back under that bridge of yours.
        thx-1138_
  • What about?

    "...And software isn't funded using love and kisses. Let's talk actual money..."

    What about spending a couple days to port an Android system over so it will run on the current and future OSes of the Playbook?
    What is their customer base. How many do you have to sell to make up for the 2 day it took you to port the application over?
    Susan Antony
    • What about ...

      ... rapping up your comments into a single post?
      RationalGuy
      • Why?

        I am addressing different points he made as I see them. Do you have to pay extra to read individual posts?
        If not, why would you possible care? Not too rational if you ask me.
        Susan Antony
    • I believe Blackberry can pull this out....

      and I want to be on that train when it leaves the station. Is it a gamble? Absolutely! But then again, so was Android - an admitted unfinished product going up against a polished iOS and an established Blackberry and Windows Mobile.

      To your point on porting Android apps... I'm an indie developer; so I don't have the concerns this article presents. My capitol is translated by available time. I did port two Android apps to AppWorld and got my free Playbook as a result. However, I had to dumb down one of them because of heavy use of Google Maps API; that must be stripped out before submission.

      So I'm porting my Java skills to C++ so I can write native apps for Blackberry. I have a popular museum series (even won an award) I want to bring to Blackberry. And because they're free with ads, I hope to have even better popularity because of the limited amount of developers (relative to Android and iOS, that is).
      tallbruva
      • Fail

        Only thing they are gonna pull out is a terd out of their butt.
        xSteven777x
      • Your largely right.

        I dont know about you, but a lot of the posters around here, even some of the writers are straining credibility with their predictions of massive failure of platforms and deaths of gargantuan companies is getting so childish and clearly biased its starting to give one a feeling that we are discussing WWE heros as opposed to realistic subjects with actual possible outcomes.

        When you read posts for example where morons blabber away about how Windows 8 will be the death of Microsoft its like your listening to babies cry about the latest Dora the Explorer show, not anything based in a real life possibility.

        Right now RIM is the largest company in IT with any possible reason to suspect there may be some possibility of potential collapse if their current efforts are not successful. Yet they live on for now. And for those with some brain in their head it should hardly be surprising. Huge companies do not just typically drop over dead. Not for practically any reason. Huge companies seldom just “roll over and die”. Huge companies in IT didn’t get to where they are by being entirely stupid, and if they stayed huge until recently, they didn’t stay that big for as long as they have, or did, without doing it with some very talented minds throughout the business.

        That alone usually means a smart new approach even after colossal failures can save any massive company from completely falling off the grid. RIM made some huge errors in judgment, but they somehow remain in a position to stay alive and well if they soon put things right. They are likely never to be as big in IT as they wherewithout some huge luck in the near future, but the sane are not ready to make arrangements for their funeral until things actually get even worse, if that happens.

        Predictions of the death of Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Google or Facebook are ridiculous. Yet we see them daily around here from morons who clearly seem to believe they honestly have a leg to stand on with their vacuous predictions. There is massive historic evidence, much of it relatively recent given the fast pace of the IT world, that there are literally gargantuan reasons for never seriously thinking a huge and long term successful company in any branch of IT is approaching devastating failure that would cause their collapse unless you cannot only correctly predict the industry shift the company has not comprehended, but you also have to explain why the company will never be able to adapt to the shift in time to save themselves.

        Companies get bigger and sometimes smaller. One can often make decent argument, if they provide reasonable evidence, that they suspect even a particularly huge company may be headed toward a large market share loss, but that’s not collapse, and it still needs more than “I hate these #$*%&* and they need to die” as any kind of sane reasoned expression of why they may end up where the predictor says they think the company will. Admittedly, the hating part may not contain clearly explicit explicative’s, but the end analysis of what many of these predictions are relying on in the end is that the writer of the prediction by far prefers another companies products to begin with and for some bizarre reason has grown some hate on for the competition.

        Why bother to be so incredibly negative about any specific product when there are honest and obvious reasons why it may end up being great. Those who say ‘but everyone knows its crap already’, is a stupid stupid statement because its not only untrue, even idiots typically untrue so to say it is not only a lie, it’s a stupid lie.

        Its time for the posters who want to write like crackheads to be treated like crackheads. I just hope we do not continue to see the blatant slide in the same direction some actual article writers around here have done.
        Cayble
  • Do?

    "...Do customers in emerging markets tend to spend a lot of money on apps? ..."

    Do Android customers tend to spend a lot of money on apps?
    Susan Antony
    • Re: Do Android customers tend to spend a lot of money on apps?

      More than Blackberry customers, right now.
      ldo17
      • Are you sure?

        According to some reports, developers for BB apps make more money. BB people have money because many of them are successful business people.
        Android people tend to steal apps.
        Susan Antony
      • LOL

        No one even uses blackberry so if one android app is bought then they have made/done more.
        xSteven777x
    • Do ...

      ... you know you can wrap up all your thoughts into a single post?
      RationalGuy
      • Do you

        Do you feel it is necessary to repeat yourself over and over and over again?
        Please show me the net etiquette guidelines that say I should.
        Susan Antony
        • net etiquette guidelines

          Common sense shouldn't require a guide. Multi-posting makes for an annoying read. It also causes people to ignore your posts as they assume that you are spamming / trolling based on the large number of posts that could easily have been grouped into a single concise paragraph. TLDR: It makes you look dumb. Nothing personal. Just FYI.
          mrefuman