RIM Cuts Ribbon on BlackBerry App Store

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has launched an app store for its iconic device. BlackBerry App Worldwent live Wednesday morning with some 1,000 applications available.

The site gives developers the option of setting up their own stores — an interesting differentiator fromother carriers’ app stores, noted ABI Research Senior Analyst Jeff Orr.

A storefront application, App Center, lets developers pull content from App World to add alongside their own content, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Among the applications currently available are Salesforce CRM, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MySpace, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Bloomberg, ICQ, HRS Hotel Organizer, chat group VH1 Watch and Discuss, Lonely Planet French Phrasebook, Livestrong, Worldmate Live, Brain Challenge 2, and a few news and media applications such as a Web shortcut to the New York Times.

BlackBerry App World works with compatible BlackBerry smartphones running OS version 4.2.0 or higher, including the Bold 9000; the Storm; both the Pearl Series and Pearl Flip Series; the Curve 8300Series; Curve 8900; and the 8800 Series. Trackwheel devices are not supported.

RIM could not arrange an interview with the E-Commerce Times in time for publication.

Apple Competition

RIM is reacting to the wild success of Apple’s App Store, Scott Testa, a professor of marketing at St. Joseph’s University, told the E-Commerce Times.

“RIM has a lot of pressure from a competitive standpoint; its margins are being squeezed as they launch lower-end handsets to capture greater market share,” he said, adding that an app store is a way to capture more revenue.

App stores offer surprisingly low-hanging fruit, suggests recent data compiled by ABI Research.For instance, 16.5 percent of respondents in a survey of smartphone users spent between US$100 and $499 on applications on their devices.

That level of spending is especially significant given the low cost of most mobile applications, which range from as little as a dollar or two at Apple’s iPhone App Store to, at most, about $25, ABI noted.

While other carriers no doubt resent Apple’s success in this space, they do have the company to thank for raising awareness of the mobile app space among consumers, ABI’s Orr commented.

“Apple App Store, of course, only caters to people who own an iPhone,” he said, “but people who own BlackBerries or Nokias have seen Apple’s ads for its App Store. They start to wonder, ‘can I download an application for my device?'”

All the device manufacturers that have app stores have seen a bump in the number of applications downloaded since Apple began its advertising spree in late 2008, Orr said.

Developer Mindshare

RIM is not the only device manufacturer with a new app store or one in the works. Nokia, for instance, has such a site; there is also the Android Marketplace for the G1 phone offered by T-Mobile.

The fight for developers’ mindshare is ratcheting up as well, said Hal Steger, VP of marketing for Funambol, which offers an open source mobile cloud application.

RIM’s new app store “raises the stakes and barriers to entry for other device makers which will need to compete against Apple and BlackBerry for developer content,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

When Microsoft finally unveils its initiative, the competition will be even tighter.

Microsoft is clearly late to the party; however, developers are going to overlook that in anticipation of the revenue volume thatonly a Microsoft market can deliver.

In its recent Wireless Development Survey, Evans Data Corporation found, not surprisingly, that revenue potential and greater marketing opportunities were the most important considerations for developers when selecting a wireless platform to target.

Forty percent more developers planned to target Windows Mobile than Apple iPhone, according to the survey, and 46 percent more planned to target .Net than Google’s Android platform.

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