Canadian BlackBerry users, developers excitedly await new RIM store

Canadian BlackBerry application developers are eagerly awaiting the launch of BlackBerry App World — Research In Motion’s much soon-to-be-launched App store — predicting it will be a bonanza for users, and mean new revenues streams for them.

The site will launch “within the next month” in Canada, the U.S. and U.K., according to RIM spokesperson.

Read BlackBerry App World Developers FAQ

It will compete head-on with the Apple App Store and the Android Market.

BlackBerry AppWorld was announced in December at the annual BlackBerry Developer’s Conference, and given its official title on March 4.

BlackBerry users with OS 4.2 or higher will be able to download an array of applications directly to their smartphone, using a PayPal account.

Free applications will be available, but the cheapest price point is $2.99 — compared with the popular 99 cents starting price on Apple’s storefront.

There’s been some buzz in the blogosphere about this — with many bloggers speculating about why the minimum price for any one App World app would be more than triple that of many favourite iPhone apps.

At least two Canadian developers, however, say the price difference isn’t a big issue.

Considering “the demographics of BlackBerry users and quality of apps we’ll see in the store, those will be worth paying more than a couple dollars for,” says Mark Ruddock, CEO of Viigo Inc.

Toronto-based Viigo has garnered a lot of attention for its free mobile application with the same name that gives quick access to RSS feeds, weather, flight information and local listings.

In December, it won the Most Promising New Company of the Year Award from the Canadian New Media Awards and was listed as one of the top 10 Canadian new media companies to watch by analyst firm IDC Canada in Toronto.

Viigo beta will be available as a free download through App World when the storefront launches.

Another, Ottawa-based, developer Vayyoo Inc. will be selling its new vPost application for $9.99.

“A minimum price of $2.99 is probably in the right place,” says Shailesh Kaul, CEO of Vayyoo Inc.. “Once there have been some trials, some rethinking of that might happen.”

Released as a consumer application March 3, vPost provides a way to send e-mail with multimedia attachments including pictures, videos, and voice notes. Users are given a two week trial with the application before they pay for a licence.

RIM decided on the pricing structure with the help of customer and partner feedback, according to Alan Brenner, the company’s senior vice-president, BlackBerry Platform.

RIM’s starting price of $2.99 is a good one, says Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

He noted that Apple is more consumer-focused and presents the App Store as a star attraction. That’s contrary to RIM’s approach as a business-focused company that sees App World as secondary to its devices.

“By setting that $2.99 threshold, they’re going to weed out some of those crap apps,” Tauschek says. He believes there will be a greater focus on business apps in BlackBerry App World.

Developers apply to be included in App World through RIM’s Independent Software Vendor Alliance Program.

Developers are also being invited to submit applications for inclusion in the storefront. It requires setting up an account with the program and submitting your application.

Though Tauschek doesn’t see App World winning the same level of popularity as App Store, it would still greatly benefit BlackBerry developers to be included in the storefront.

“It will certainly boost the use of [their] apps on the device,” the analyst says. “They will all be in one location and easy to get to.”

App World will build on the BlackBerry ecosystem and create more opportunity for developers to profit off the device platform, Brenner says.

“Look at what wireless messaging and voice have done and look at how the BlackBerry platform defined this space,” he says. “Now imagine what this incredible communications device can mean to people when loaded with games, lifestyle apps, just anything you can imagine.”

And this “boost” is something Viigo’s Ruddock is counting on.

Since launching in May of 2008, he says, Viigo has developed a user base in the hundreds of thousands. Now a larger cross-section of BlackBerry users could be introduced to the application. Many BlackBerry owners use their smartphone mainly for e-mail, he notes.

“Only a fraction of current BlackBerry-carrying users have ever thought about downloading applications and using them,” he says. “For BlackBerry to be an attractive environment for developers, they need to see something like an application store where there’s a place for users to discover, download and buy the apps.”

Viigo has other distribution channels, including its Web site. It also recently snagged a deal with Vodafone in Australia to be included as one of the third-party applications in the carrier’s application centre, Ruddock says.

Vayyoo is a more recent entry to the BlackBerry application market and will be relying more heavily on App World for its distribution, according to Kaul.

“We’re leaning on RIM’s support and counting on it to spread the message,” he says. “We’ve brought a general solution that has a very wide usage potential.”

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