Um, Well, Er, That Was Different

RIM has decided that the best way to reach out to developers right now is a music video. It’s sung to the tune of REO Speedwagon’s 1980 song Keep On Loving You (from their album Hi Fidelity). You really have to see this thing to believe it.

Okay, so some credit to RIM for trying something different. But only a little. Maybe instead of spending money on a music video, they could be spending money on, oh, I don’t know, real product marketing?

Will this convince me to add Blackberry to my inventory of supported platforms? Nope. Not at all. Not because I think it’s a bad song (even though it is rather cringe-worthy). But because, once again, RIM just doesn’t get it. Do they not understand why developers are flocking to iOS and Android? It isn’t because they have these spectacular developer programs (they are adequate, but not exactly outstanding). It isn’t because the tools they provide are vastly superior (because neither platform has a standout toolset. Again, both are adequate and do a decent job helping you build apps. But they both have awkward elements, and occasional stability issues).

Developers are buying into iOS and Android because there are lots of iOS and Android devices out there, and their owners buy apps. In the case of iOS, lots of them. And more to iOS, lots of apps for money (paid apps outnumber free apps in download stats, and they have since sometime in 2010). Developers can make money building and distributing these apps on iOS and Android.

Blackberry users buy very few apps. It seems to stem from the early attempts at some kind of “app store”, that made it awkward to buy and download. The profusion of operating systems, with no upgrade path for existing devices, doesn’t help. To make it worse, not all apps will work on all BB versions, and some require a rewrite (like BB10 does now. Your BB6/7 apps? Sorry, you have to redo them again).

If you want to attract developers, don’t just try to talk to developers (and for pete’s sake, stop making music videos). To attract developers, you have to build an ecosystem where apps can make money. That means lots of devices that are upgradeable, that have a future and that have a lifespan longer than about a year in developer-time. Make it easy for me to target multiple form-factors and multiple device generations. To make that happen, stop thinking “handsets with smarts” and start thinking “small personal computers that make phone calls”.

To get a large and vibrant customer base, and one that buys apps, takes marketing. Not making cheesy music videos for the 8 guys that build apps for your platform.