How To Build The BlackBerry PlayBook App Ecosystem – My $0.02
I love the BlackBerry PlayBook I won in the #PlayBookCHI contest. I love using it to read my Google Reader RSS feeds; watch TV, movies, and other media in HD; and browse the web. I love how it is small enough to fit inside most winter coat pockets and barely weighs much when I throw it in a messenger bag yet it is still big enough to have a screen on which I can fully enjoy watching media. However, there is one big problem that I find as a user of the PlayBook – the app ecosystem. The PlayBook app ecosystem – or number of apps available for the PlayBook – is still quite low.
According to a CrackBerry forum discussion here there were 2,653 PlayBook apps available in the BlackBerry App World catalog as of June 22, 2011. While that number DOES keep growing every day, in order for RIM (Research In Motion) to really make their offering attractive to consumers they have to step up their game in pushing the creation and release of apps for the PlayBook. Just take a look at the photo below of the “Top Free Apps” in BlackBerry App World for PlayBook which I just took a few hours ago. The 15 apps listed include 2 translation apps, an app for children aged 0-5, 7 games – one of which comes preinstalled on the PlayBook, a Globe News (Globe is a Canadian news media outlet) app, a file browser, a video chat app, and a Google Reader app. Not the most exciting stuff in my opinion but very functional – especially the Google Reader app (as I mentioned, that is what I primarily find use for with my PlayBook).
At BlackBerry World 2011 the folks at RIM mentioned that in order to make Android apps work on the PlayBook – which is the plan – the BlackBerry PlayBook Android App Player will require developers to simply repackage their Android apps for the PlayBook and sign it via a RIM provided extension for the Android SDK . That is great that Android apps will be available to us PlayBook users and will make the device way more awesome when this happens but what about until then?
The PlayBook was released April 19, 2011 and in the 64 days that it was available until June 22 there were less than 3,000 apps available. I also wonder how many of those apps are actually very useful – I have yet to find a good Twitter app or a good WordPress blogging app. Is the intention to wait until Android apps become available? I hope not.
My idea to encourage developers (and I am not a developer) to make apps for the PlayBook is pretty simple – COLD, HARD CASH. If you’re a developer and you put an app into the PlayBook App World and it gets downloaded X number of times (my theory calls for 500 or 1,000 times) RIM will give you MONEY (let’s say US$100). The app doesn’t have to be a paid app, you can have advertising within the app, and you can even give the option to buy a premium version of the app (but no trial versions that expire after a few weeks, those shouldn’t be counted in my opinion and this is my idea).
I think the promise of cold, hard cash from RIM for app developers would do a few things:
- Encourage a lot more app development for the PlayBook OS and platform.
- Result in a lot more free apps for the PlayBook OS and platform because the developers are going to get paid anyway only by RIM not the user which means users will be getting more bang for their buck when they buy the device.
- Spawn the development of “PlayBook only” apps as developers desire to have their app be the one you download.