RIM in enterprise middleware push to see off Android, Apple

BlackBerry-maker playing developer catch-up with ad service and app analytics...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

BlackBerry-maker playing developer catch-up with ad service and app analytics...

BlackBerry-maker RIM is stepping up the fight for app developers and the enterprise by announcing a raft of new developer tools and middleware, which it hopes will give it the edge over rival mobile OS platforms Apple iOS and Google Android.

While RIM has traditionally been strong in the enterprise with its BlackBerry smartphones, this position has been under attack in recent years as Apple and Google have increased their market share, and smartphones running their software have started to catch the eye and imagination of business users.

In the consumer apps-stakes, RIM is also behind. Apple's iTunes App Store hosts more than 250,000 apps, Google's Android Market more than 70,000 apps, while RIM's BlackBerry App World has around 10,000.

Add to that, Apple has branched out into tablets with its iPad device, while Android-based slates are also incoming - including Cisco's enterprise-focused Cius tablet.

As Ovum analyst Tim Renowden notes in a statement: "RIM is not the only company with grand plans for enterprise tablets: both Cisco and Avaya have already announced enterprise-focused tablets based on Android."

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet

BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet - announced at its DevCon developer conference
Photo credit: RIM

BlackBerry used its DevCon 2010 conference stage in San Francisco yesterday to announce its own foray into the tablet market - the BlackBerry PlayBook, which it sees being paired with BlackBerry smartphones to act as an office document viewer and more.

RIM also previewed a new BlackBerry enterprise application development platform - which is being tested by a handful of enterprises - known as BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware (Beam).

RIM's aim with Beam is to make it easier for commercial enterprise and corporate developers to build enterprise apps and services that can plug into other BlackBerry apps, or integrate with native functionality and features of its devices - such as the BlackBerry calendar. It describes such integrated apps as "super apps".

Beam will include APIs, libraries and server software to enable developers to access instant data push and alerts, use efficient file transfers with enterprise applications, and make it easier to query a user's device for geo-location, presence, current camera image, calendar availability, device type and more, according to RIM.

The middleware can be integrated with other application development platforms such as IBM WebSphere, Oracle Fusion Middleware and the mobility platform from SAP and Sybase, with RIM noting that IBM Interactive, Oracle and SAP are all testing the middleware.

IBM Interactive is using Beam with IBM WebSphere to help develop...

...a business-to-consumer application with ING Direct."[Beam] provides us with a platform to offer our clients a richer and more innovative experience when using our mobile banking applications for BlackBerry smartphones," said Charaka Kithulegoda, CIO of ING Direct Canada, in a statement.

"The use of features like push notifications - for a subscribed alerting service - engages the client by capturing their attention at the right time. Alerts can provide important information to the client and provides ING Direct Canada with a just-in-time messaging platform."

Oracle said it is integrating Beam into Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) - to enable Oracle developers to build enterprise apps for BlackBerry users using development tools they are already familiar with. SAP is also pushing out its SAP Business Suite to BlackBerry smartphones and integrating Beam with the mobility platform from SAP and Sybase.

The initial set of Beam libraries is expected to be available in closed beta later this year, with additional libraries due for release in 2011, RIM said.

The smartphone and now tablet maker also announced an advertising service aimed at helping BlackBerry developers monetise their apps more effectively by adding ads. The BlackBerry Advertising Service gives them access to RIM's advertising network partners - with developers taking home 60 per cent of any ad revenue generated.

RIM also announced it is launching free analytics tools for developers, so they can integrate metrics-tracking into their apps. RIM has linked up with Webtrends for the BlackBerry Analytics Service - due to launch in early 2011.

RIM is also allowing developers to integrate its IM service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), with their apps to add BBM chat, content sharing and invitations functionality into applications such as games, multimedia apps and location-based offerings. BBM has more than 28 million users, according to RIM.

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