RIM’s Efforts To Entice Android Developers With Free PlayBooks Reeks Of Desperation


RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook
RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook

It’s no secret that RIM’s attempt to create an iPad-killer with its PlayBook tablet didn’t deliver a success. In a move that was common of last year’s parade of iPad competitors, the PlayBook shipped almost as a public beta with core functionality like a native email app missing from the device. The PlayBook’s dismal sales haven’t exactly inspired positive reactions from developers, which could signal the death of not just RIM’s tablet but also future smartphones based on the QNX operating system that powers the PlayBook.

In a desperate attempt to build up a developer community, RIM has turned to an unlikely source: Android developers. The company has already developed tools that allow Android apps to be ported with relative ease to the PlayBook, but interest hasn’t exactly been high. Now, the company is hoping to entice more developers by offering a free PlayBook.

This approach reeks of desperation and effectively illustrates the depth of RIM’s problems. It’s a stark contrast to Apple’s relationship with iOS developers. Apple has never had a problem attracting developers to iOS. Certainly Apple hasn’t had to resort to practically bribing them.

But RIM isn’t the only company to resort to dangling freebies in an effort to create an app ecosystem. Microsoft was known to be paying developers to create or port apps before its Windows Phone launch. HP offered free Pre2 handsets to encourage webOS developers. Of course, neither of those attempts paid off in a big way. Though Windows Phone faired better than webOS.

This certainly makes it clear that RIM realizes that it’s in trouble and that it knows it needs app developers to survive. The big question is – will this help at all?

One of RIM’s big problems is that it missed the app bandwagon and no longer has a clear audience. Despite its run as the top dog in business, RIM seems to be almost giving up and focusing on a youth-centric model. Those are two completely opposite markets and RIM really isn’t doing all that well in either of them.

Tie that to this free stuff for any Android app idea, and it’s a crap shoot as to what collection of apps you’ll get. If RIM ends up with mostly media and gaming apps, it’ll seem like a joke to business. If it doesn’t get anything by staid business apps, then it misses out on the consumer market. With consumers also beginning to dictate the devices they use at work, that could be an even worse defeat.

All in all, it’s hard to see this as anything but a confirmation that RIM completely lost touch with technology in both consumer and business spheres. That made it easy for Apple to disrupt RIM’s entire business model.

And at the end of the day, is a free tablet RIM has had to repeatedly mark down to generate sales going to be enough to encourage a broad range of developers to drop everything and port their apps for that tablet? Time will tell, but if I were a RIM executive, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


  • prof_peabody

    Small correction.  You give the impression that RIM is only focussed on business and that the attempt to go after the younger crowd is some kind of a departure when it’s actually not.  RIM sells large amounts of product to young people, particularly young females who text a lot.  In some areas, the majority of folks using blackberry are exactly this young, female demographic and not business users at all.  

    RIM seems doomed already for many reasons not mentioned here, but the idea that selling the product to non-business types is any kind of a new direction for them is not really accurate.  The new marketing strategy is actually a smart move for them even though it’s probably too little and too late.  

  • Nikolai Baker

    But isn’t that from almost a year ago… I’m confused.

  • Manuel Reyes

    Cool Story, except this is so last year…..literally >.>

  • Kelvin Ng

    Google and Microsoft do the same thing – hand out hardware and money to developers that can support their platform. I can understand the hate for the PlayBook now – it’s because RIM talked it up so much and people had high expectations for it, only to be thoroughly disappointed. It makes so much sense now – people don’t hate on the the HP Touchpad and Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola XOOM, because they didn’t have high expectations for them. If you just look at the numbers, what’s more of a failure? Tablets like the HP TouchPad and Motorola XOOM, or the PlayBook, which RIM is committed to improving? So .. I just wonder sometimes – why aren’t tech blogs writing hate posts for those failed tablets and companies instead??

    For writing so extensively about Apple, you should know that, at its core, RIM’s troubles are similar to Apple’s troubles in the 80’s and 90’s – hiccups in ramping up the software/hardware platform and also public perception. The difference is that RIM is still posting profits every quarter while Apple almost went bankrupt – RIM is far from that.

    Give RIM, Torch Mobile, QNX and TAT some time – I’m sure not everyone there is totally idiotic and blind to what’s happening in the industry with iOS and Android. If these companies that were acquired by RIM hated RIM as much as tech bloggers did, they wouldn’t have joined the company. Try using the PlayBook for a week, once the 2.0 update is out.

  • freighttrain2126

    I agree with you, I don’t get all this obsession about “rooting” for other companies to fail just because they compete in the same market. Is having your platform of choice control 100% market share really that important? While I wouldn’t give up my iPad for a playbook, I may get one in addition to my iPad because the new qnx operating system seems really fresh and intuitive. I for one am rooting for tHe likes of webos, qnx , and windows phone because they all bring something unique and push the top players forward, just look how much better windows has gotten since Mac started getting market share.

  • markrlangston

    I wouldn’t classify this as a hate-filled rant about RIM but more about how they’re struggling against the behemoth that is Apple and the iPad. 

    I’m sure if you were an investor in RIM this would be information you’d want in order to make the appropriate adjustments to your portfolio. The last thing you’d want to see is your RIM stock in free fall while at the same time asking yourself what went wrong.

    You should also understand that you’re making comments like this on an Apple blog. I have no doubt that if Apple were doing badly in one area or another that the Android blogs wouldn’t also be filled with “Apple Screws Up, Again”. 

    With all due respect to the writers for this site, this is a blog, not CNN. CoM certainly does report on news you don’t get from other tech sites/blogs, but an equal percentage of personal opinion and introspection about Apple and the industry is posted on a daily basis. 

    Take it in stride and understand the audience CoM appeals to. 

    And defend the PlayBook all you want, it’s clearly not the device RIM played it up to be. How you market a device as the “first professional grade” tablet without an email or calendar app and expect people to buy into that message is beyond me. 

  • Kelvin Ng

    Sure, CoM is for Apple fanboys – it just hurts a little to see that the Apple community has turned this way after suffering the same way when Apple had its struggles. I am a Mac user and huge Apple fanboy. But I also use a BlackBerry and think that the QNX OS has a lot of potential. 

    “professional grade tablet” was probably one person’s idea. Not everyone in RIM believes it launched as a competitive tablet.