For RIM, it has to be about quality and not quantity in app count

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: January 14, 2013

Within the smartphone market, it’s not all about specifications or pricing. If it were, there’s no doubt in my mind that Windows Phone 8 would be doing even better than it is. We live in a world of applications, and those applications have become such an integral part of our lives that many people refuse to try a new mobile platform simply because it doesn’t have the apps they need. There are a lot of developers out there, but not nearly enough to get everything supported, at least not to the extent that all consumers want or need. That’s why it’s big news that Research In Motion was able to rake in 15,000 new applications for BlackBerry 10 at their recent BlackBerry Port-A-Thon event.

It’s more than obvious that RIM is putting a huge focus on their newest mobile operating system, but it should be obvious to anyone out there that it is absolutely necessary for them to do that. It’s one thing to make high-end, desirable hardware. And it’s another thing to create a mobile platform that captures the attention of the busy market. RIM’s focus has to include applications, and a lot of them if they want to truly compete against Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

But the argument for “a lot” of applications simply can’t be based on numbers. Yes, it’s great that Research In Motion was able to pull in 15,000 applications in just over 37 hours, but 15,000 applications doesn’t count for much if they’re not what people want. Having an application library with a huge number is great to show off on paper, but that’s about it.

Windows Phone 7 was faced with the same obstacles right out of the gate. In fact, it’s something that Microsoft is apparently still suffering from. When I reach out on Twitter to ask about Windows Phone and applications, the return I get from folks is generally the same: “Not until the app selection gets better.” That’s a bit of a loaded statement, though, because Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store is certainly “getting better” in terms of app selection. Microsoft pointed out at the end of December that:

“Over the last year we’ve certified and published over 75,000 new apps and games (more than doubling the catalog size) and over 300,000 app updates.”

This is something that Research In Motion really needs to pay attention to. Those numbers for Windows Phone are impressive, especially the climb that they’ve made in just a year’s time. But the fact that many within the population still believe Windows Phone has an “app problem,” is a big deal. More so because it’s obviously holding Microsoft’s mobile platform back from truly being a success that it obviously could be.

And RIM doesn’t have the time or money like Microsoft does. The Waterloo-based company has to make a monumental big push right out of the gate. While they are on stage at the BlackBerry 10 launch event, they should have a screen displaying how many apps the BlackBerry App World will launch with, but don’t make that the focus. Have it there for people to see, that big impressive number, but talk about the big name applications in detail.

Tell the crowd, the world, what they can expect to get their fingers on if they pick up a BlackBerry 10 device. You may not have an expansive ecosystem like Apple or Google (yet, but we can dream, right?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t launch your platform with the apps that people really, really want. And that includes games, too, RIM. Don’t forget gaming, because that’s obviously a huge push for the mobile industry.

So what if RIM just doesn’t have the big-name apps ready to go at launch? Or at all? Then RIM should find application developers that have made competent replacements, and show them off. If you can’t get the original app, but you know that there’s another one just like it that does the same thing and does it well, then show it off. Don’t bury it, because all people will see is that the original app doesn’t exist on your platform. So guide the conversation about your platform and your apps. Direct it to where you need it to be, and showcase what you need to showcase.

Finally, one last thing. We shouldn’t let the number be the most important part, but there is something that 15,000 applications does tell us that is pretty exciting: Developers are at least interested in RIM’s new mobile OS. Back in February of 2012, the BlackBerry World’s application count was over 60,000. BlackBerry 10 has to be able to climb over that number, and do so with a majority of applications that grab the attention of the consumer.

The new BlackBerry 10-based handsets look impressive, and the software even has me pretty excited for what the company has coming down the pipeline. Research In Motion certainly has a big hill to climb, but it isn’t an impossible endeavor. It should be a fun, exhilarating and difficult one, yes, but not impossible.

What do you think of Research In Motion’s chances in the app race? Do you think they can grab some of the more important applications to the general consumer, enough to get a wave of new users back under their flag? Or are the big-name developers going to wait to publish their apps for the new platform, based on adoption from the people? Let me know what you think.