Top Mobile Development Platform: iPhone, Windows, Android, Blackberry?: Page 4

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4. BlackBerry

Were this lineup ordered on market share alone, BlackBerry would hold the number-one ranking. Representing nearly 42 percent of the market, BlackBerry is the number one smartphone platform in the U.S. by a wide margin.

However, the platform is steadily losing market share to the iPhone and Android. According to comScore, BlackBerry’s market share shrunk by 0.4 percent for the three months ending in May 2010. To be fair, the iPhone lost ground during those months too – in fact, Android was the only platform to gain ground. With all of the hype leading up to the iPhone 4 launch, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out that plenty of potential iPhone customers were simply waiting for the iPhone 4.

Even more troubling for RIM is the fact that studies like the Nielsen one referenced above show that fewer than half of all BlackBerry owners plan to purchase another BlackBerry.

With its bread and butter – strong email integration – being challenged directly by Microsoft and Android and the app model favoring the iPhone and Android, RIM has a tough road ahead.

From a developer’s standpoint too, BlackBerry gets only tough love. Mutual Mobile’s CTO, Mickey Ristroph, emailed me a concise explanation of why developing for BlackBerry is such a headache.

“On BlackBerry, there are a lot of different dimensions (OS version, device, carrier, country), so it’s analogous to developing 100 different versions of each app,” Ristroph wrote. “Whereas Android is carrier agnostic, BlackBerry is much more dependent on the carrier, especially for location-based and messaging services. That extra carrier dimension actually adds quite a bit of effort on the QA side. Imagine having to build different websites for each ISP (Time Warner, Comcast, etc,)!”

Jason Yim, CEO of the mobile development company Trigger LA concurs. Trigger develops for both iPhones and Androids and is, for now, avoiding the BlackBerry. “We looked at BlackBerry, but the app delivery system doesn’t compare favorably [to iPhone or Android]. The storefront isn’t great, and BlackBerry users are just not using apps.”

Research backs Yim’s observations. Ovum found that BlackBerry only has 5 percent of the app download market, despite accounting for nearly 42 percent of smartphones shipped.

It’s important to remember, though, that even as RIM loses market share, it will probably actually gain subscribers. Smartphones are replacing feature phones, so the big loser won’t be RIM but rather more traditional handset vendors who will be backed into the corner as new smartphone players dominate.

With a much larger overall smartphone market, even if RIM is the number four or five player, that’s still probably good enough to boost revenues. RIM also has solid a track record of giving knowledge workers exactly what they want on the handset.

For years what knowledge workers wanted was email, and even with all of the apps circulating, email and messaging are still far more important than, say, CRM or ERP apps. “People forget that 80-90 percent of email-messaging systems are on-premise,” said Tom Goguen, VP of product management at RIM. “We’ll continue to be the gold standard in that space.”

BlackBerry believes that the next important feature will be social networking, and the company is working hard to make BlackBerry a strong social networking platform. BlackBerry also intends to correct its app failings with what they call “Super Apps,” which is basically a set of developer tools that ensures that BlackBerry apps can be easily mashed.

“Having CRM on the go is interesting,” Goguen said. “Having it show up in your calendar is better. Having it connect seamlessly to LinkedIn is better still.”

Next Page: Mobile wildcards, Symbian, Palm WebOS

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Tags: Blackberry, iPhone, iphone apps, iPad apps, best smartphones

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