Update: see below.
RIM has announced that a future BlackBerry operating system update will remove the ability to sideload apps to the BlackBerry PlayBook in order to prevent the ecosystem becoming a "chaotic cesspool" of piracy like Google Play, new name for the Android Market.
Alec Saunders, RIM vice-president of developer relations, Alec Saunders, announced the upcoming change in a series of posts on Twitter.
Sideloading apps onto the PlayBook isn't easy. Apps in APK format need to be converted into BAR format, the PlayBook has to be in 'Development Mode', and the sideloading itself requires third-party apps. There's no doubt that sideloading can be used to pirate apps, but it's not the only use for the feature.
The BlackBerry App World doesn't have anywhere near the number of apps that Google and Apple have in their app stores, and it seems that RIM believes that the reason for this is that developers don't want to support a platform that allows users to bypass the official app store and sideload apps onto BlackBerry devices.
Personally, I think that the lack of developer interest has more to do with the embryonic nature of the platform rather than sideloading.
I guess we'll have to wait and see if this is what developers want.
Update: Saunders has clarified BlackBerry's position regarding sideloading apps over on the Inside BlackBerry Developer Blog. Here are the highlights:
"Side-loading is a developer feature. It exists so that developers can load their apps onto their own devices to test. It is definitely not there for some people to side load a pirated app."
"...next release of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS, we're introducing a feature that will encrypt apps so they can only be run by the user who purchased the app."
Encrypting apps will offer more protection against piracy and is something BlackBerry could have done a long time ago. It remains to be seen if this will be enough to encourage more developers to jump aboard the PlayBook platform.
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