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BlackBerry phones losing favor with software developers

Complexities, cost involved are cited

There are more than 35,000 apps for BlackBerry phones. There are more than 35,000 apps for BlackBerry phones. (Roberto Gonzalez/ Associated Press)
By Devin Banerjee and Hugo Miller
Bloomberg News / June 28, 2011

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NEW YORK — Research In Motion Ltd., struggling to compete in the smartphone market with Apple and Google, is losing support among some software developers who have been making programs for the company’s BlackBerry phones.

Seesmic Inc., a developer of social-media applications, and Mobile Roadie, which makes apps for fans of the Miami Dolphins and country singer Taylor Swift, have decided to stop making products for RIM. Purple Forge Corp., which makes programs for political campaigns and polling, will stop building BlackBerry versions of its apps unless customers request it.

“You have to put your resources where the growth is,’’ said Loic Le Meur, Seesmic’s chief executive. “It’s coming down to the explosive growth of the iPhone and the Android operating systems.’’

RIM has been trying to build support among developers to fight back against Apple and Google’s Android, which have drawn away users with greater varieties of applications. RIM said last week that its quarterly revenue may drop for the first time in nine years and it unveiled plans to cut jobs.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s share of global smartphone sales fell to 12.9 percent in the first quarter from 19.7 percent a year earlier, as Apple gained and Android more than tripled to 36 percent, according to researcher Gartner Inc.

RIM said it continues to increase the number of programs for customers. There are more than 35,000 apps in the company’s online store, up from the more than 25,000 in March, said Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman.

There are more than 200,000 apps in the Android Market and more than 425,000 in Apple’s App Store.

The developers are stepping back from BlackBerry phones because they say creating apps is too complex and costly for the size of the market.

RIM’s devices have different screens sizes, varied operating systems and several ways to navigate, from a physical keyboard to touchscreen to a scroll button.

“As soon as RIM brought in a touchscreen and mixed it with a thumbwheel, a keyboard, and shortcut keys, it made it really difficult and expensive to develop across devices,’’ said Brian Hurley, chief executive of Purple Forge. “What Apple scored big on is having a touchscreen and a button and that’s it.’’

There are also costly surprises that turn up during development for RIM, Hurley said.

“In deploying Apple applications, there are very few surprises,’’ he said. “In Android, there are increasingly more surprises. But in BlackBerry, there are immediately lots of gotchas across the board.’’