Reflections from the 2008 Blackberry Developers Conference

Wow, what a blast last week in Santa Clara!  A complimentary Bold or Storm of choice for every attendee onsite—a Mike Lazaridis general session keynote—roadmap presentations of a Browser accessible device-resource coding environment—updates on new Java ME APIs including Touch for the Storm—and the App Store partner program announcement to support long tail applications and abundant consumer choice.  All of these themes combined to make the 2008 BlackBerry inaugural developers conference the place to learn last week, and for those in local mobile-developer hubs around the world who might have missed it, I suspect you won't next year when RIM returns.  

With strong heritage deploying mobile data solutions to serve the security demands of enterprise and government, Lazaridis' keynote and many of the other talks that followed explained how RIMs historical approach to mobile data solutions and cryptography offer developers the only secure & proven end-to-end mobile platform now ready for mass-market consumer adoption.  To support the impending growth in this area, along with the expectation that Smartphone platforms will dominate consumer mobile data adoption, RIM is embracing the ecosystem in a big way. Beyond the obvious consumer and prosumer allure of the new device portfolio, specifics include extending new developer-recruiting efforts beyond the Developer Zone and Alliances Program to include the recently announced App Center and App Store.  Storefronts are the subject de jure in the mobile industry as of late, and RIM tackled the topic head-on last week...  

For those not familiar with RIMs App Center and App Store differences, the App Center is an effort to aggregate carrier deck placements for BlackBerry into one accessible widget, where users can browse various application categories available from one port-of-entry.  The grouping will simplify application discovery issues typically encountered with carrier vending-machine placements by presenting certified, available apps under one super-group aggregation.  The App Store will enable the long tail of applications which some carriers are still cautious to support directly given the overheads, maintenance required, and resources needed to filter through useless garbage (e.g. lighter apps?...).  For the App Store, RIM plans to host the direct-to-consumer storefront along with backend mediated billing support via deals with PayPal and credit card company's. Like Apple's iTunes App Store and Google's Android Market, the BlackBerry App Store will be RIMs answer to support the thousands of applications out there serving lucrative niches previously under served by carrier shelf-spaces.  Unlike the others however, the BlackBerry App Store plan is different in that RIM will 'closely' monitor submissions and eventually migrate winners toward the 'hit' circle, graduating some up into App Center placements in concert selection with their carrier-partners. That plan plus $150M in VC-sponsored incentives a la the BlackBerry Partners Fund should motivate developers to move quickly.  Rick Segal, a Partner of the fund, was onsite delivering a passionate talk and encouraging developers to get started now as he expects to see twice as many BlackBerry developer's emerge and join the fray over the course of the next twelve months.  ...Exciting times indeed.