At a developer-centric event today, RIM paints a cheery picture of future success despite the enormous challenges it faces. What choice does it have?
BlackBerry-maker RIM may be facing continued losses and deep uncertainty as it readies its first BlackBerry OS 10 smartphone, but if nothing else, the company has a sense of humor.
And some musical know-how among its ranks. Today's BlackBerry 10 Jam session for developers kicked off with a music video spoof of Tom Petty's "The Waiting," substituting Petty's original lyrics for those describing BlackBerry 10's progress.
"It's not quite ready yet," Alec Saunders, RIM's vice president of developer relations crooned from the projector. "Android and iOS, they're no good for you. So grab those APIs..."
Underpinning the light tone is the meat of the matter, that after two years of development, RIM has no new OS to share, and that Android and iOS are the beacons of success.
So began RIM's message to developers: the press has been negative. The myths are wrong. You can make money building apps for us.
Apps up 250 percent
To entice any on-the-fence programmers, Dr. Ronjon Nag, who heads up BlackBerry AppWorld and West Coast development, painted a picture of excitement among developer partners, who he said have been showing off working BlackBerry 10 apps they wanted him to check out.
The submission and participation numbers are higher than ever, too, Nag said, with more than 250 percent new developers joining the BlackBerry App World storefront in the past year. Nag added that the number of submitted PlayBook apps increased 250 percent in just the last quarter.
"If you make $1,000 [selling apps] on your own," Nag said, "you'll make $10,000 with us. Guaranteed."
'You have to get it right'
RIM's Nag assured attendees that "BlackBerry 10 is a game-changer for RIM, and a game-changer for the industry," yet some cracks still showed.
RIM's team said that application partners do ask for "clarification" on damning news items like RIM's widespread layoffs (RIM told them layoffs were a reality, but the BB10 team was growing.) They also hinted at industry pressure to produce a knock-out debut device.
"You have to get it right," Martyn Mallick, vice president of global alliance and business development, said about the forthcoming BlackBerry 10 smartphone. "There's no opportunity to bring something to market if it's not great."
Good words to live by, but what about BlackBerry Tablet OS and the BlackBerry PlayBook, I asked? By most reviewer and consumer accounts, the PlayBook came to market long before it was great.
After a long sip of water, Mallick responded, "We've heard that."
RIM is absolutely aware that after two years of development, the BlackBerry 10 platform will have its make-it-or-break-it moment before the end of 2012. Of course, Mallick remains outwardly hopeful.
"BlackBerry 10," he said, "is where we regain our momentum."
The developer hopefuls apparently flocking to RIM's new platform clearly hope he's right.