BlackBerry Mission: Be ‘Cool’ As iPhone, Bro

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Your mission, should you choose it to accept it: Make the BlackBerry as cool for apps designers as the iPhone. Serious BlackBerry is looking to shake off its square rep and join the cool gang where iPhone and Co hang out.

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This mission is what developer ‘evangelist’ Alec Saunders was hired to carry out in August by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Saunders task, as head of developer relations, is to get them excited about BlackBerry’s platform again, similar to the enthusiasm surrounding Droid and iOS.

And he is looking to move to Google and Apple’s home turf Silicon Valley, (along with NYC and emerging markets) to get in the thick of the developer action. 

“I want a team on the ground here in Silicon Valley, going to developer events and meeting with developers all the time,” Saunders said at BlackBerry DevCon Americas 2011 conference in San Franciso, last week.

“There’s a giant perception gap. Nobody is telling our story and even we weren’t telling our story.”

The troubled Canadian phone giant also gave another major push on apps at DevCon by opening up the BB platform to Android – releasing the beta version of BlackBerry’s PlayBook 2.0 OS with support for Android’s thousands of applications.

RIM also say they have identified a prime the reason PlayBook tab failed – lack of apps.

“We know the No. 1 reason the PlayBook sales haven’t been where we want them to be is the lack of native e-mail, the No. 2 reason is there aren’t enough apps,” Larry McDonough, head of RIM’s hand-held software team, said this week.

“So we’re attacking that as best we can.

 
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5 million BlackBerry apps are downloaded daily, and is one of the most profitable platforms for developers, according to Mike Lazaridis,RIM Co-CEO.

This comes as the king of cool, Apple’s iPhone, now boasts almost half a million ‘active’ apps in the App Store in Q3 – 459,589 to be precise – compared to the lagging Android Market which has just over 300K (319,161), according to new stats.

BlackBerry trails behind the cool rivals with under 50K apps, in total.

However, there’s more to these figures than meets the eye, apparently, with Android developers emerging as “significantly more productive” than Apple, say research2guidance analysts, with the average publisher on Android placing more than 6 applications in the Market – and has now hit 500K submissions in September alone – compared to just over 4, on average, for iOS developers.

In fact, it looks like Android could come almost head to head with iOS pretty soon, once the published apps go live.

In the meantime, the Apple App Store stands at just over 600,000 successful submissions – still 20% more than green man rival.

However, some US analysts including Tavis McCourt, from Morgan Keegan & Co, seems doubtful BlackBerry will hit the spot. “RIM is clearly becoming much more developer friendly,” said McCourt.

“One wonders if it is too little too late, at least in the U.S.”

 

And as one commentator on BlackBerry userforum said: “I somehow doubt they will be able to pull it off. Kudos to them if they do manage it though!.”

Indeed, Saunders mammoth task appears difficult, but perhaps not impossible. Stranger things have happened.

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