It was a salutary experience. I'd just sent the iPhone 3G back to Apple after two weeks of playing around with it, when the nice chaps from Research In Motion came in with their latest Blackberry. It was... well, a Blackberry. Perfectly good at doing what it does, but – "when are you getting an application store?", I asked. In the final analysis, that's the one thing on the iPhone which sets it apart from everything else. "Well, we might think about it", they said.
They've done more than that. Today, RIM announced its Online Application Storefront, which looks awfully like the Apple idea. Developers set their own rate, and get 80 percent of revenue. However, as you might expect from a company that tends more towards partnerships than Apple does, there are differences: mobile operators can have their own stores, for example, and presumably get to set their own rules about revenue splits. Whether this means you can't then go to the main RIM store, RIM couldn't tell me at the time of writing – but this and other questions are lodged and with luck, we'll know more tomorrow.
This is, of course, essential to RIM's survival. The company is in a good position to manage that, as its corporate bias gives it some insulation from the still-defiantly-consumerist iPhone, and it should be able to get developers on board if the storefront works properly. It's also thought about how to manage corporate apps via that (let's hope it allows someone to write a decent Exchange integrator), and as Andrew Lim, CNet UK's rabidly enthusiastic mobile phone bod said to me earlier – the more recent Blackberry hardware doesn't suck.
And a microsecond after the RIM announcement, Android opened its box and let everyone in to see, hear, smell, touch and taste the open source goodness. All rather thrilling, even if T-Mobile hasn't sent us a G1 ahead of the European launch: it feels rather like the early days of PCs, all over again. Which is nice. Geezers need excitement...