SAN FRANCISCO—Given 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.
Balsillie is critical of Apple's refusal to support Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash software but that pales in comparison to the PR disaster RIM suffered in handling demands of several governments (Saudi Arabia, India, etc.) for access to its servers traffic for security reasons.
Apple has a huge lead as a a software platform company over RIM which is insurmountable. It is also becoming a chip components company defining and designing its own silicon, albeit for internal consumption.
I actually like the iPhone approach, enable the whole web through a browser, but supply an SDK to enable iPhone specific applications. It works great on the iPad too.
Nothing prevents people from writing web apps for the iPad except wait... the App Store enables an easy way for you to get paid.
The beauty of the iPhone App store and apps in general is that it motivates programmers to develop for the platform. People are willing to use the platform SDK to get paid. Simple and efficient. If people don't like don't use the app store, but look at the economics, people like it. Some times a good business model just wins.
I am no particular fan of Apple, but this Apps flap seems to be the current incarnation of thick versus thin clients, a discussion that has been going on for quite a while. Also, Rick, apps actually fit nicely into web services, since they separate the presentation layer from the backend data. There are actually real advantages to building specific applications natively on a platform rather than a 'one-size tries to fit all' web application built on a browser platform. My complaint is not that, but how Apple controls the access to the device platform.
@Test_engineer: pretty bold statement... If they were starting new, I might agree. However, they are still significantly entrenched and the Iphone is simply not convenient for input. It's a "dazzle the dorks" focussed platform that is a marketing gem. Every day I have cube neighbors saying "ooh, look at this new app" for something that they play with for a couple days and then ignore. The worst thing is that they are causing the entire market to move away from functionality in lieu of eye candy. Wow, that sounded harsh...
As a Canadian and as a former Nortel employee, I can only say that the days of RIM are numbered. There is no way, no way, messieurs et madames, that this company is going to compete with a behemoth like Apple. This California company has both the engineering and marketing muscle to take over the entire smart phone industry.
If there is an app for every website you would need another app to manage them! The good news for these sites is that users are willing to pay for apps when they are not willing to pay for paid membership of sites (e.g. Zagat).
The RIM CEO is right. The whole apps craze was created by Apple as a way to drive value to its proprietary iOS platform. But in the era of Web servcies it's a step backwards. Do we really want an (iPhone only) app for that?
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