BlackBerry 10: Without platform or apps, even the Avengers can't save RIM

Sure, a sexy device matters. But without developer superheroes, the mighty RIM will meet its demise.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

In my teens, I was a genuine geek. How do I know this, you ask?

My parents were (and still are) avid collectors of erotic art. My father always had Playboys lying around the house and made no attempt at concealing them from me and my younger brother.

There were nude etchings from Louis Icart and other prints from well-known Art Deco and Art Nouveau artists and photographers hung all over the walls. Not to mention Shunga prints from Japan, which left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

I guess they wanted to expose us to this stuff so we wouldn't grow up being prudes.

Sure, I looked at them. Gawked at them even to the point where I got completely desensitized to it. I'm not going to lie, though. The Deco and Nouveau goddesses depicted in these photos and paintings were very alluring to me in my teen and pre-teen years.

But as a kid, what really interested me most was comic books. Marvel, DC, you name it. Superheroes. Classic Jack Kirby, John Byrne, John Buscema, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Bob Layton, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Bill Sienkiewicz.

This is the type of stuff that got a teenager's blood pumping, not creamy white women in flowing see-through gowns from the 1920's and 30's lounging come-hither on ornate sofas with their sleek greyhounds, or Shogun warriors taking their mistresses on tatami mats in every position imaginable.

Now, as an adult, I have a much finer appreciation for the kind of sex-inspired artwork that my parents collected. But I would still rather have a Jack Kirby adorning my office than a Louis Icart. Sex absolutely has its place in art, but it has to be in balance with everything else.

Jack Kirby or Neal Adams doesn't belong in my bedroom, though.

My ZDNet colleague, James Kendrick wrote a piece yesterday about how BlackBerry OS 10 as a device really has to wow the public in order for RIM as a company to survive. That this is the last chance before everything goes completely flaccid.

Platform, he says, is not nearly as important as the sex appeal of the gadget in question.

I agree that sex appeal for a device is important. But if you don't have the superheroes, you can forget about success of the entire thing.

What do I mean by superheroes? I mean the developers and the platform.

It just so happens Apple has the correct balance between Sex and the Superheroes, which is why iOS and iPhone is so alluring.

Android has a huge amount of Superheroes, with a good platform and strong developer activity, but not so much Sex as Apple. So for the time being, they are doing very well, but it's pretty damn obvious why Google bought Motorola, so that they can beef up the Sexy.

Android cannot continue with just pure Superheroes, and Google knows it.

With Windows Phone, Microsoft definitely has the Sexy with Nokia and the Lumia, and they have a genuinely good platform. But they're missing the Superheroes to live in the Hall of Justice or the Avengers Mansion -- the developer base.

However, I think that Microsoft will eventually be able to assemble the teams to code the apps, even if they have to pay them outright.

Okay, so maybe not so much Avengers or the Justice League but S.H.I.E.L.D or the Legion of Doom on a Tony Stark budget. If anything, Microsoft has the money to accomplish its goals.

I think there's no question that RIM knows how to accomplish the sexy. Their hardware builds, at least in their upper-end handsets have always been excellent, and while they languished for a while with OS 7 and earlier, the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 platform is a genuinely good one.

I know so, because it's exactly the same platform which runs on the PlayBook, and I have nothing but good things to say about QNX and the PlayBook platform. The PlayBook has the most diverse set of APIs to code to of all the mobile platforms -- Native C++, Webworks (HTML5), Android Dalvik and Adobe AIR.

And there's no question that the PlayBook is an incredibly sexy, well-built device and the UI is one of the best in the industry, and has probably the best built-in browser and the most resilient OS of any of the mobile platforms. In fact at $199.00 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model I think it's one of the best values in tablets today.

The problem is that the PlayBook lacks superheroes. Developers. Without the developers, you have no apps. With no apps, you can have the sexiest device in existence but nobody is going to buy the thing.

Microsoft initially had this problem with Windows Phone, but it is slowly gaining momentum which will only accelerate once the Metro UI is in the mainstream on tablets and the desktop, and developers have more exposure to it.

Unfortunately, RIM doesn't have the Tony Stark or Victor Von Doom budget of Microsoft to play the waiting game. If they don't get developers jazzed now, there won't be any apps worth talking about by the time the first BlackBerry 10 handset launches, no matter how sexy the thing looks and feels like.

Without developers, It will be a repeat performance of the PlayBook launch. And then RIM will be done.

Part of the problem is that I believe RIM has wasted too much valuable time on courting Android developers to port consumer apps to PlayBook OS/BlackBerry 10's Dalvik engine, where they should have been encouraging native C++ QNX and Webworks development, which fully exploit the capabilities of the device.

I also believe that the consumer market is a huge waste of time where the company should really be focusing on its strengths -- the enterprise. Apple and Google already has the consumer market, and Microsoft is going to end up getting whatever sloppy seconds is left over from whoever is fed up with iOS or Android.

Showing off 3D games at a developer trade show in Orlando may make for some nice eye candy, but nobody in the enterprise cares about that. They want things like business data visualization and enterprise app connectivity.

I'll say it now and I'll say it again -- the company needs to get back to business. And the superheroes that RIM wants and needs wear suits, starched white shirts and polished shoes, not the geeky T-shirts of The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper.

What kind of superheroes does Research in Motion really need to save BlackBerry? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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