RIM reels in developers with promises of change

To say that the past 12 months have been a bit rocky for RIM and the Blackberry eco-system in general would be grossly understating the obvious. The once great manufacturer has seen record capitol losses and watched its market share slide at an increasing rate. One of several reasons for the slip has been a lack of developers attention for the BlackBerry platform, especially relative to competitors such as iOS and Android. The Blackberry Playbook, RIM’s attempt at entering the tablet world, has floundered for just this reason. Ignoring the myriad other concerns about the company’s current state for the current moment, the lack of apps available for the PlayBook rendered it more or less DOA. Read on for more.

As just one of its many attempts to plug a hole (or 20) in a sinking ship, RIM put together a small panel today at Mobile World Congress to outline some of its plans for both the upcoming BlackBerry OS 10 in general and, more specifically, future plans to reinforce and improve the PlayBook itself.

The company spoke specifically about its excitement over Cascades, the TAT-built development GUI for OS 10, and it noted that many developers are currently being included in conversations about specific plans for the next-gen operating system. While we didn’t hear many specific promises with regard to improvements or OS evolution, RIM does seem committed to listening to its user base as the company presses forward.

Gaming and social features will, of course, remain paramount, and RIM plans to enhance existing staples such as BBM with a more robust feature set. For example, BMM will soon include a “share page,” allowing users to share a page of an eBooks with a connected BBM friend. Social reading, if you will. A cool touch, but nothing terribly revolutionary. As we said, however, this is just one example of how RIM is trying to re-embrace social.

All told, we certainly didn’t see anything that screamed “RIM is saved!” but we are comforted a bit by the company’s seemingly genuine understanding of its mistakes, a willingness to acknowledge errors, and a desire to improve relations with both consumers and, most importantly, developers. This latter point is crucial, as the potential extinction of the BlackBerry brand has scared off developers wary of pouring time into programming complex apps for an eco-system that may or may not still be around in 12 months.

The message from RIM seems to be this: be patient with us and we will reward you with a stable, well supported, and complex platform to showcase your apps. Great message, but as always, implementation and follow through is the challenge. Will RIM rise to the occasion? That remains to be seen.

 

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