Tuesday, May 1, 2012

RIM previews its BlackBerry 10 software; PixelMags is part of presentation, promises to launch an app

When Apple first premiered the iPad at its event at the end of January of 2010, Steve Jobs not only wanted to show off the new tablet's capabilities, but he very specifically chose those that would take the stage with him. Jobs demoed the Safari browser using the New York Times's website, but then started in on apps.

This is what I wrote a little over two years ago on the day of the iPad introduction:

When the time came to show off how apps work on the iPad, Martin Nisenholtz from the Times took the stage to show off the New York Times app for the iPad. The Times was one of the first to launch a media app for the iPhone, and clearly Apple wanted the Times to be ready for the introduction.
That app, of course, launched with the iPad and was a showcase of sorts for other developers.

I mention this because today's presentation previewing Research In Motion's (RIM) delayed BlackBerry 10 software also was an opportunity to showcase what would be unique in the new mobile operating system. As Slashgear reports, new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins chose digital publishing vendor PixelMags, the maker of replica editions, to share the stage with him.

It was an interesting choice, and one that really shows the lack of imagination and vision currently guiding RIM. If the company truly wants to get developers interested in the platform RIM will have to do two things: it will have to develop interesting solutions itself, and it will have to partner with innovative developers.

One has to remember that Apple is one of its own platform's best developers, launching innovative iOS apps for GarageBand, the iWork suite, etc. – not to mention an authoring tool for eBooks, iBooks Author.

RIM could really boost its own platform by launching its own set of innovative apps, as well as authoring tools for publishers that would not only allow the easy creation of apps and tablet editions, but would facilitate really good, exciting apps. You want to get publishers interested in developing for RIM's platform? Do something that neither Apple nor Google has done so far.

As for the developer community RIM needs to seek out innovators, not simply look for me-too apps. I dropped my old Samsung phone for the iPhone in 2007 because I could do new things with my smartphone. Samsung now offers those same features, but that is simply an even trade. If RIM (or Samsung) wants me to buy something else, I need to know that I get something available no place else (even if that is for only a short while).

But RIM has to pick wisely because it will be hard to convince the developer community as a whole without leadership. The NYT's Bits blog, for instance, quotes a series of skeptical developers. One of them, Phill Ryu, chief executive of Impending, expressed the obvious: “If this is a horse race, RIM is two laps behind and has a lame leg. Why would I bet my time and money on them?”

As for BlackBerry 10, RIM says it will launch in the fall. One might be tempted to post about all the product demonstrations of hardware and software set to launch some time far into the future. I would guess that RIM won't be one of those companies that never delivers – BlackBerry 10 will most likely launch.

But remember, between now and then will be the launch of a new iPhone and the newest version of iOS. The preview of BlackBerry 10 can be compared to both iOS and Android versions currently in circulation. By the time Blackberry 10 launches we won't be comparing it to iOS 5, but to iOS 6.