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RIM: Enough room for third-party developers

Following RIM's release of apps aimed at meeting needs of enterprise customers, company exec downplays fears that app developers aren't benefiting from BlackBerry platform.

SINGAPORE--There is room for both Research In Motion (RIM) and its partner network of third-party app developers to coexist on the BlackBerry platform, assures a company executive, following the handset maker's rollout of apps aimed at its enterprise customers.

Arun Verma, RIM's Asia-Pacific team lead for channel product management, said the Canadian company is focused on being a "solutions provider" in the enterprise space, and its app development mentality is driven primarily by feedback from its CIO customers. Comparatively, RIM acts as a platform operator within the consumer space and is committed in creating an environment that is open and attractive for developers, he added.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of a media briefing here Thursday, Verma stressed that despite RIM's efforts in creating apps to meet the needs of enterprise customers, third-party enterprise app developers need not worry about the Canadian company cannibalizing its partners' market opportunities.

Pointing to the BlackBerry App World and popularity of productivity apps, which are "one of the top" categories in the marketplace, Verma said there is a "thriving environment" for developers to work on the BlackBerry platform.

RIM, however, was unable to provide statistics to support his observation.

Verma went on to explain that many of the software developed by RIM address specific niche areas in a company's business processes, and this might not appeal to third-party developers.

"For example, single-function, niche apps--such as workflow apps--that are applicable to the company requesting for them, are unlikely to make much commercial sense to third-party app developers," he added.

Extending enterprise focus
RIM recently launched several new tools aimed at enterprises such as the BlackBerry Balance, Mobile Voice System (MVS), Chalk Pushcast and BlackBerry cloud service, Verma noted.

"These tools were introduced in recognition of the trends we see developing in the enterprise space such as growing adoption of cloud services, personal devices increasingly entering the workspace and data efficiency," he noted.

The BlackBerry cloud service, for instance, will provide BlackBerry Enterprise Server capabilities to Microsoft's Office 365 customers to better manage personal devices accessing enterprise networks, he said. This collaboration between both companies was announced last week.

Verma added that the partnership is indicative of RIM's views that the Canadian company should "act as an enabler" for companies to tap the benefits of the cloud.

When asked if the announcement by rival Nokia to partner Microsoft, in which the Windows Phone 7 platform will run on its handsets, will impact RIM's own partnership with Redmond, the Canadian company declined to comment.

Verma highlighted the MVS tool as particularly relevant in today's business landscape, following the earthquake and tsunami earlier this month which affected companies in Japan. The software allows mobile devices running on Wi-Fi to connect to other devices operating over a PBX (private branch exchange) system.

This will provide businesses with the necessary disaster recovery capabilities to keep communication lines open even if the office is shut down, since the company's network will be able to handle internal telephony via both PBX and Wi-Fi, he explained.

With regard to costs, he pointed out that users can now lower their overseas call roaming charges with MVS so long as they can tap free or cheap Wi-Fi access.