BlackBerry maker touts developer support

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion says that developers are stepping up and building new apps for the company's phones despite slipping sales.

Research in Motion

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is turning to developers to help it keep its business alive as sales of the once popular smartphone drop sharply.

On Tuesday the company reported that it's been making significant progress in attracting developers to create applications for its BlackBerry Playbook tablet and its upcoming handsets using the BlackBerry 10 software.

In the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011, which it reported last week, the company said that it saw a 21 percent increase in new BlackBerry smartphone apps. And it saw a 240 percent increase in the number of apps created for its Playbook tablet.

As of the end of the quarter, the company said it had more than 70,000 smartphone apps in its App World store. And it has 15,000 apps made for the tablet. This is still a far cry from hundreds of thousands of apps in Apple's iOS App Store and far fewer than Google Android boasts. But RIM believes it is making headway in attracting new developers.

The company also said that it's seeing growing interest from developers to continue building new applications for its future products. The company said there was a 68 percent increase in vendors registered to develop for its App World app store. And BlackBerry subscribers are responding to the new apps in the store. The company said it's seen more than 2 billion apps in total downloaded and about 177 million apps downloaded per month.

For months, the company has been working to seed the market with devices running its upcoming BlackBerry 10 software in order to get developers to have new apps ready for the devices when they launch in the second half of 2012. And at the company's BlackBerry Jam in Orlando next month, it will be giving out thousands of test devices to developers who it hopes will continue to add new applications to its app store.

RIM is betting the farm on BlackBerry 10, which it hopes will reinvigorate its product line. For far too long, RIM has been without new, innovative products that excite customers. This has left the company vulnerable to advances by its competitors, namely Apple and Google.

Sales have dropped sharply for the company. Shipments of its BlackBerry products dropped 80 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. And RIM reported heavy losses. The company replaced its co-CEO's earlier this year with a new CEO, Thorsten Heins, who is starting to make big changes at the company. In addition to cutting some of the executive staff, Heins said recently that RIM will go back to focusing its products and strategy on its core business customers.

The company's app strategy will likely play a big role in keeping and attracting customers to the platform. In addition to its push email service and strong security offering, RIM will also be looking to developers to offer new apps that can enhance worker productivity. But given the trend of workers bringing their own personal devices into the office, RIM will also still need to make sure that it can keep up with apps that consumer want, too.