RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, has launched its much-anticipated software store that will allow users of the device to download applications onto their phones, according to the Associated Press. This is a shot across the bow of Apple, maker of the wildly popular iPhone, and a signal that RIM is trying to retake some of the market share that they've lost to the iPhone.
Or at least staunch the bleeding somewhat. While users have long been able to download software for the BlackBerry
from a variety of third-party sources, this is the first time that RIM has offered
its own central location for software purchases and downloads. After the success of the iPhone and its App Store, most major smartphone manufacturers are rapidly moving towards the creation of central hubs for add-on software.
After watching the iPhone rocket to smartphone superstardom, they would almost be fools not to.
BlackBerry's App World, itself a software download freely available on RIM's website, requires users to have a PayPal account. The user's BlackBerry must also have a trackpad or a touchscreen, which rules out users of earlier devices.
RIM's Co-CEO Jim Balsillie suggests that users may eventually be able to charge purchases to their wireless bill, depending on how negotiations with wireless carriers turn out.
Microsoft announced its own plans for a mobile software store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, earlier this week. Nokia has several application stores, but said earlier in the year that it would roll the stores into one central resource. Google also has its Android Marketplace offering programs that run on its Android operating system for mobile devices.
It's unclear how much control RIM is exercising over App World content. One of the major criticisms of Apple's Store was the level of control that the company exerted in its approval or disapproval of programs submitted to the Store. Developers decried Apple's lack of published guidelines, and RIM seems to have gotten the message and published a set of guidelines that applications must follow in order to make it into App World.
(Apple, however, has not responded to the complaint over application standards, and has yet to publish guidelines for its apps).
Another major complaint from developers of App Store software has been the ways that Apple promotes the software. Many developers felt that cheaper applications ended up featured more prominently, which they believed began a race to the bottom in terms of application pricing and significantly reduced the incentive to create higher-quality software with a higher price point.
Apple did attempt to address these concerns in a recent update to the App Store, but it's still a bit too early to tell if the developers' concerns have been assuaged.
RIM may be experience some of its own problems with software promotion, as the most popular downloads after launch were free programs.
What's the verdict, CrackBerry addicts: Is App World something you plan to use, or will you stick with your usual sources for BlackBerry software?