Blackberry App Store (Almost) Open

Research in Motion says that the firm's competition to Apple iPhone store will open this month.
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Research in Motion plans to go live with its BlackBerry App World store this month as scheduled. App World is the mobile device maker's answer to Apple's phenomenally successful App Store for the iPhone, which already offers over 25,000 applications following its release last year.

"We're excited, very soon it'll be out there," said Alan Brenner, senior vice president of BlackBerry Platforms at RIM. "There's a huge pent up interest in simpler discovery and acquisition of applications for the BlackBerry."

Brenner was interviewed as part of a keynote luncheon presentation at the Dow Jones Wireless Innovations conference here. He declined to get into much detail on what applications will be available at launch, but did note they cover a broad range of categories from business and productivity to entertainment.

"The market expects volume and quality," he said. "We have a history of solutions that are very sticky; applications that people spend a lot of time with."

He said he isn't sure how many applications have already been built for BlackBerry phones, but said some estimates put the number as high as 80,000. "Certainly there are tens of thousands," he said.

Brenner also took pains to explain that RIM has expanded well beyond its initial business and enterprise focus, noting that RIM's roughly 25 million active users are about equally divided between enterprise and consumers.

"The enterprise (only) focus of BlackBerry may be a little out of date image," he said.

But he also noted that consumer/business lines often blur when it comes to mobile devices like the BlackBerry because they are used for both business and personal use. Brenner himself said Facebook and MySpace are among his favorite applications on the BlackBerry along with Slacker, an online music radio station.

Looking to the Cloud

When the BlackBerry App World store launches, Brenner said will serve both as a distributor and repository for user's applications. "You'll be able to store your applications in the cloud and retrieve them as needed off the network," he said.

Until the store goes live, it's not clear how quickly or efficiently an application might be retrieved, but having that option means BlackBerry users won't be limited to how many applications they can store directly on the device.

Wrapping up, Brenner hit on a few more hot button topics in response to questions from the audience. He said Netbooks are "interesting," but not an area RIM plans to expand to. "We're in the BlackBerry business and we're going to stay focused on mobile smartphones," he said.

And he didn't take the bait when asked to comment on what might be missing from Apple's forthcoming iPhone 3.0 OS, announced Tuesday. Apple said it plans to include so-called push services for real-time alerts and other real-time content. RIM has been a pioneer in providing push e-mail services on the BlackBerry line.

"We really like push," he said. "We think we have a great solution that's widely adopted and we're going to keep going with it."

Brenner said using a mobile device as a projector for presentations sounds like a great application. "If the technology is a fit, we'll give it a serious look," he said.

As for what advances he might be highlighting a year from now, Brenner pointed to the continuous advances in unified communications. "The technology that allows you to send and receive mobile calls through the PBX system is probably going to get more attention over the next year," he said.

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Tags: services, wireless, Blackberry, iPhone, RIM

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