RIM is Getting Things Right – Montreal Developer Jam

Posted on July 13, 2012

RIM’s BlackBerry 10 Developer Jam swung by Montréal this week to coincide with Montréal’s International Start-up Festival. The event was interesting on two levels.

Globally the event shows that RIM is investing in the developer community and it showed some aspects of the quality of the underlying OS.

Obviously, BlackBerry 10 has not been released or fully demonstrated, and it wasn’t at RIM’s event, but there were glimpses of the performance of the OS. Aspects of the OS were very, very smooth; event smoother than iOS and much smoother than Android. This hints that the underlying foundation of the OS is strong; which is a good base to build on.

The other very position aspect of the event was the actual quality of the event. RIM was taking very good care of its developers. The organization of the event itself was very professional, really great food, lots of free drinks and easy availability to talk with some of RIM’s key staff.

As for the sessions themselves, RIM was constantly trying to emphasize that developing for the platform was easy, and that developers could make more money on their platform than on others, particularly on Android. This I can believe as it is very hard to make money through app sales through the Google Play store.

The BlackBerry 10 platform allows for native development through its Cascades platform, which seemed very smooth and swish; and through web frameworks such as Sencha Touch, Cordova/Phone Gap and an array of others that was presented leveraging HTML5 technologies. As previously announced, RIM has an effective Android runtime that allows developers to leverage existing investments on that platform, but monetize them through the Blackberry app store.

Blackberry has also distributed 6,000 Dev Alpha phones which allow developers to create applications before the final devices are released. Playing around with this, I have been quite impressed with the web-browser. There are some nice UI innovations that make it easier to move between tabs. Compare this to the iOS web-browser on the iPhone that has not changed markedly since the iPhone was released over 5 years ago.

So will all of this save RIM? It’s hard to say, and there are a lot of other variables that will play. RIM can release the best phone on the market, and it may have trouble gaining traction, or a phone which is mainly mediocre may do well because of a few key features that are really stand-out such as the camera time feature.

One area where RIM may do very well, and where this platform certainly looks very interesting, is for niche applications. Given the solidity of the operating system, the performance of the hardware, and the ability to create low-cost applications, the Blackberry could be a great candidate to replace all of those systems that Palm Pilot has been used for for years. Obviously though, RIM is expecting much more!

At Digital Possibilities, we’re hoping for a RIM renaissance. When you look at what they are trying to do to attract and support the tech community, they are doing the right things and should be applauded for that. Building an ecosystem of high-quality applications is very important for the success of the platform.

RIM’s success is good for the Canadian tech scene and the Canadian economy; and at Digital Possibilities we will be happy to support RIM. However, our advice currently remains the same, we need to take a wait and see approach before making major investments to see if the BlackBerry10 operating system and devices can regain RIM’s traction in the marketplace.