When Alec Saunders took over Research in Motion’s developer relations team, he asked then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis for 25,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets to be given away, for free, to developers interested in creating or porting apps for the BlackBerry 10 platform. Lazaridis was shocked with his request, but approved it. Saunders then asked for 8,000 units of BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, also to be given away for free to developers.
So was this a desperate act to get developers to create apps for BlackBerry? You could say it is, but the company knows how difficult it is to gain the interest of developers. Because the top platforms are currently iOS and Android, RIM, now going under the name BlackBerry, needed to do everything possible to regain the support of mobile developers.
To further boost its app offerings ahead of today’s BB10 launch, BlackBerry held two Port-a-Thons to encourage developers to submit apps for BB10. BlackBerry enticed developers with free BlackBerry Playbooks and BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha devices if a number of their apps get approved.
App woes, or app-ortunity?
You might be asking, why is BlackBerry in such a frenzy to get more apps in BlackBerry World where there are already thousands of apps available for the platform? You see, the apps present in BBW aren’t exactly compatible with BB10, since its a whole new platform.
Though BlackBerry promised that over 70,000 apps would be available for BB10 devices when it launches, we’re not entirely sure what those apps are and if those apps will actually satisfy consumer needs. I’m pretty sure that the top social networks would have apps compatible with BB10. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Foursquare already have BB10 apps ready, but will there be an app for Netflix, Instagram or even Skype?
Why BlackBerry 10?
According to a survey conducted by Vision Mobile for its Developer Economics 2013 report, though most developers are interested in developing for iOS and Android, RIM is not far behind.
Plus, BlackBerry has already lowered the prices of existing apps on BBW, so if you don’t get with the program – develop apps fit for BB10 – you could be missing out on an early opportunity to generate additional revenue through this re-launched marketplace.
There are also several new features in BB10 that would fit well with certain apps, like the new camera that lets users travel back in time to a moment where everyone in the photo has their eyes open. Then there’s the intuitive keyboard that could work well with productivity tools designed for business professionals, as well as text-happy consumers.
Tools + frameworks for developers
Aside from the monetary reward for developing for the BB10 platform, BlackBerry’s updated its mobile platform to make it even more attractive to developers. An open platform, BB10 features a handful of development languages and runtimes that fit with developers’ preferences and skills. This also makes it easier for developers to port existing apps to BB10, regardless of the language it was written in.
Appcelerator Titanium – After making its Titanium Blackberry Platform available to the open source community, its seen plenty of activity and notable updates. Now fully integrated into the Titanium Platform, the new BlackBerry SDK is part of the larger Appcelerator family. Designed for developers, the Appcelerator portfolio comes with dozens of tools for the creation, syndication and monetization of mobile apps. This is an important consideration for app makers seeking cross-platform promotion for their products, and Appcelerator has brought in a high profile team experienced in HTML5 to lead the charge.
appMobi – Also pushing the HTML5 charge is appMobi. Helping you create native apps for BlackBerry and other major platforms, appMobi provides tools for creating, testing and tracking app progress. There’s a marketplace of tools to help you leverage BB10′s native capabilities, to make your app as integrated as possible with BlackBerry devices.
If you’re a developer for hardware, software or apps, or want to learn more about them, BlackBerry offers instructor-led training, web-based training, and other training resources such as manuals, help, videos and documentations.
BlackBerry helps you find a training partner so you can better understand the full capabilities of BlackBerry products and services. But if you’d rather work on your own, you can choose web-based training to go at it on your own pace.
The work doesn’t end after the app’s been developed and launched. Developers need a way to measure how popular their apps are, if people find it useful, if there are bugs in the app, if there are stages that are too hard or too easy, or if the app actually serves the purpose for which it’s built.
Right now, BlackBerry’s Analytics Service doesn’t support BB10 yet, but I’m quite sure it will soon. Aside from BlackBerry’s native analytics tool, developers can use Localytics though it doesn’t have a native BB10 SDK, one of Localytics’ customers built their own BB10 SDK which may or may not function as smoothly.