You’d think after recent events that RIM executives might have learned not to make public comments that fall somewhere between the categories of misleading and delusional. After all, as the New York Times recently reported, RIM’s new CEO could face litigation for misrepresenting the state of the company to its shareholders. Apparently even that lesson and the fact that half of CIOs and IT managers plan to migrate away from RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) over the next year isn’t enough to prevent RIM from sticking its foot in its mouth.
The latest drama surrounds a report that developers are quickly losing interest and/or confidence in developing apps for the current BlackBerry OS or its BlackBerry 10 successor. Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president of developer relations – who’s rarely tactful when giving his opinion – took to RIM’s developer blog on Friday to defend the company.
The study by Baird Equity Research surveyed 200 developers and asked how they would rate the outlook for various mobile platforms on a scale of 1 to 10. iOS came out on top with a 9.3 rating and Android came in a bit lower at 8.7. BlackBerry 10, which has already suffered delays, registered a 3.8 while the current BlackBerry 7 OS got just a 2.8. That’s just marginally above webOS, which HP canceled last year before beginning a slow and half-hearted effort to open source the platform.
The study also showed that nearly a third of developers (31%) had shifted some or all of their efforts away from BlackBerry 10. It did note, however, that the overall developer base that is sticking with RIM is becoming increasingly loyal.
While Saunders didn’t resort to a near-childish tantrum as he has in the past, his response didn’t really address the real issues raised by the study. In fact, the points he made were little more than cheerleading.
- Expansion of the developer base year-over-year
- Expansion of the catalog of apps available for RIM’s PlayBook tablet
- Highlighting a 23-city developer tour to which attendees are offering positive feedback
- Positive developer comments on the BlackBerry 10 development tools and good early opinions about the OS as a whole
The expansion of the developer base is really the only fact that remotely touches on the Baird survey. The other points — number of apps, attendance at developer events, and praise from developers — don’t really prove or even imply that developers aren’t distancing themselves from the company. For example, I could praise the Pre2 and webOS, but that doesn’t mean that I think it’s a viable platform at this point.
Even the expansion of the developer base is misleading. Yes, it was up 157% from last spring/summer to this spring/summer – that doesn’t mean all those developers are actively creating BlackBerry apps. It also doesn’t disprove the idea that developers have a grim opinion of any RIM solutions as viable in the near-term or long-term. It just means that RIM has more developers registered than it did last year.
This actually highlights one of RIM’s biggest problems – that there isn’t a coherent message being put forth by its executives. That makes it difficult for developers, carriers, IT professionals, and users to feel like they’re getting accurate and reliable guidance from the company.