SAN FRANCISCOóGiven a chance to take a jab at rival Apple Inc. during the Web 2.0 Summit here Tuesday (Nov. 16), Research in Motion Ltd.'s co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, did not pass it up.
Balsillie was critical of Apple's software developer kits (SDKs), restrictions on developers and Apple's controversial refusal to support Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash software. Apple has often taken heat in the past for failing to support Flash and for the closed nature of its developer system, which places a number of restrictions on developers creating apps for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch products.
"Our point is real simple on a bunch of things," Balsillie said. "We think you can bring the mobile to the Web, but you don't need to go through some kind of control point of an SDK."
Balsillie said RIM allows developers to use their regular tools and publish apps to the firm's BlackBerry platform without writing any native code.
"There is a role for apps. But can you use your existing content assets and you can use the tools that you usually use to enable them for mobility," Balsillie said. "It's really not about a set of proprietary tools or 'app-ifying' the Web."
Balsillie also pointed the audience to a YouTube clip posted by RIM that shows a side-by-side comparison of RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and an iPad loading Web sites. In the video, the PlayBook significantly outperforms the iPad.
RIM announced the PlayBook in September. General consumer availability of the tablet is not expected until sometime next year. The device, which has no cellular capability and will wirelessly tether to a BlackBerry handset, will reportedly retail for under $500. In the YouTube video, the narrator says RIM is still finalizing the product.
The iPad, introduced in February, has been an unqualified hit. Market research firm iSuppli Corp. predicts that Apple will sell 13.8 million iPads this year and another 43.7 million in 2011.
In Apple's most recent earnings call Oct. 18, CEO Steve Jobs made special mention of Apple surpassing RIM in smartphone sales, saying Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones during the quarter while RIM sold 12.1 million BlackBerry's in its most recent quarter, which ended in August.
"We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future," Jobs said. "They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company."
Balsillie dodged questions about the PlayBook's availability Tuesday. He said the PlayBook has a "module cavity" that could be used to add smartphone or other capabilities.
Balsillie also strongly hinted that RIM would support near field communications (NFC) technology for contactless payments in future BlackBerry devices. "I don't comment on future products, but we'd be fools not to have [NFC] in the near term," Balsillie said. "And we aren't fools."
The Web 2.0 Summit is scheduled to run through Wednesday. Live streaming of the event is available through the event's website. The event is co-sponsored by UBM TechWeb, a division of United Business Media, the parent company of EE Times.