Will the BlackBerry PlayBook Struggle to Attract Developers?
It’s no secret that mobile communication devices (tablets in general) are the “in” thing in the tech industry right now. After releasing the first generation iPad last year, Apple grandfathered an entirely revolutionary and previously unheard of market; one that many didn’t think would go far at all. But here we are now, just a tad more than a year later, and the struggle on the part of retail stores to maintain stock on the second generation iPad speaks for itself in terms of the tablet computer’s popularity and overall success with consumers as a whole. And with the outstanding success of the iPad product line, the last year has brought way to a number of other companies rolling out their own tablet computers in moves quite obviously devised to take a stab at Apple’s stronghold in this promising market.
One of the companies that has been working to anchor into the tablet industry has been Resources In Motion; the company that is best-known for producing and developing the BlackBerry smartphone line. After previously discussing the PlayBook in January I more recently looked at the viability of RIM‘s tablet computer in a critical light, questioning if users would be willing to give the device a go despite the fact that it wasn’t priced any lower than the already established Apple iPad.
But now with the device edging closer and closer to an actual release and pre-orders officially underway, I honestly have to question whether the device will get traction in the tablet industry; not only with consumers who RIM will have to convince to buy their tablet as opposed to an iPad or one of the many other competing devices, but also with developers whom RIM will have to convince to invest their time and effort in order to compete with the iPad’s App Store selection.
Much like we’re currently seeing with Windows Phone 7, I honestly think that there will be a major challenge in lining up developers for a device that has yet to build up a user-base large enough to justify the effort needed to develop applications for it. That’s because software development, just like every other industry, is typically most profitable when the largest user-base is targeted. And right now, that user-base still belongs to Apple.
Much like I have discussed with Windows Phone 7, I predict that there will be a form of a gridlock amongst consumers who will not want to purchase the device until the application selection is more up to par with that of Android/iOS and developers who will hold out on developing for the new device until they see the potential of a justified payoff from their work.
So where does that leave the PlayBook? In all honesty, the similarities between RIM and Microsoft right about now are somewhat stunning, and admittedly a bit scary. Both companies were previous prodigies in the technology industries, and both have been slapped with the reality that is Apple’s success and influence in the present-day market. Once more, the biggest similarity that I see between RIM and Microsoft is the fact that both are going to have to get a bit creative in order to gain presence in the current era mobile market.
But don’t get me wrong. Both companies still have the potential and opportunity to make it big. It’s just not going to come easy for either of them.
However, I do strongly believe that RIM does have an upper-hand right now. You see, the company previously established their “App World” service in 2009, which allows users to download and purchase “apps” onto their BlackBerry devices. What this means is that RIM is more in-tune to the need for third-party applications, and in a sense has already attracted users and developers for the existing BlackBerry product line. And while one might not see the BlackBerry as a “modern” device or a competitor against the iPhone on any scale, the fact of the matter is that RIM managed to outsell the iPhone last fall showing that they are still going strong.
In addition to this, RIM has in the past year or so invested a bit in advertising; a play that I think has and will continue to help them maintain an image as a “hip” company. In particular, this ad [YouTube video] quite obviously was put out in order to market the fact that the BlackBerry does have a wide selection of “apps” and that it can indeed be a real competitor to the Android devices and the iPhone.
With this in mind, we can see that the BlackBerry line (and the PlayBook) is competitive in terms of apps, and does indeed have the support of some developers out there. The question is, will it be enough?
When all is said and done, I have to go back to my critical look at the PlayBook’s potential for success, where I questioned if users would choose the PlayBook over the already established iPad despite the fact that it has yet to prove itself. Quite frankly, the same question applies to the developers out there as well. And while I don’t exactly know what the answer will be, I’m guessing that in terms of success, RIM will do notably better than Microsoft, but as of right now I cannot fathom the company achieving or one-upping the success of Apple with the iPad.