Home > Contemplations > How To Build The BlackBerry PlayBook App Ecosystem – My $0.02

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.

BlackBerry PlayBook App World

BlackBerry PlayBook App World

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).

BlackBerry PlayBook App World Top Free Apps

BlackBerry PlayBook App World Top Free Apps

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.
I really love my BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM made a fantastic product and I cannot wait to see how powerful a device it becomes once there are more apps available. What do you guys think? Do you like my idea? RIM, what say you?
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  1. Bijan V
    July 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Interesting idea but given the amount of time (and headaches associated with developing for BB) RIM would have to put out quite a lot of cash for it to be an actual incentive!

    RIM has (for the past however many years) completely ignored developers and our pleas to fix the ecosystem was “Work within or don’t work it in at all”. I’ve never had such a frustrating time developing ANY sort of application than I have with BB products.

    What RIM needs to do is completely re-haul their developer program and get some trust back in developers (it didn’t help that with a renewed hope of an awesome OS they still required a NOTARY for you to submit to the app store, seriously WTF – although I heard they’ve recently removed this requirement). I, as well asmany others who’ve tried to reach the BlackBerry user market have tried and given up and I’m not quite certain yet how RIM can win us back.

    • July 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      Well while I have read things like that before I guess I made the assumption that they would have made the process for developers easier to encourage them to come back to them and their platforms. Maybe I should have mentioned it – but, as I said, I am not a developer so I didn’t think of it.

      Do you think the cold, hard cash would be incentive enough to get you back – even if they didn’t make the process as easy as other OSes? (Assuming, as you said, they have gotten rid of the requirement to go to a notary.)

  1. January 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm
  2. March 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm

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