Toronto developer’s Viigo top download on BlackBerry app store

Viigo, a mobile phone application from a Toronto developer of the same name has smashed its own download records in the first week of being hosted on the new BlackBerry App World.

Viigo has consistently been at the number one spot in the top downloads list since the virtual storefront opened its doors April 1. After a week of exposure on App World, the application had seen far more downloads than in any previous month.

It took just five days to hit more than 100,000 downloads, says Viigo CEO Mark Ruddock.

“App World exceeded our expectations in terms of the impact it will have on us as a business,” he says. “Not only are we seeing lots of downloads, but we got a 4.5 star rating and great user feedback. It is very encouraging.”

Viigo is a feature-rich content delivery application that delivers RSS news feeds, information about flight status, stock portfolio updates, the ability to buy movie tickets, and share links on social networks, such as Twitter.

Optimized for your BlackBerry, Viigo’s success with Research in Motion’s (RIM) new storefront bodes well for all developers, Ruddock says.

“This is a very important step for RIM and its developer eco-system.”

It’s time for developers to take a long, hard look at that eco-system, he says.

App World is RIM’s response to Apple’s success with its App Store. For many iPhone users, the varied applications — literally available at your finger tips — was a big selling feature. It has also proven to be a lucrative revenue source for developers.

“The response to BlackBerry App World has been incredible,” says Joanne Hoekstra, director of the application store at RIM. “The feedback we are receiving from customers and our developers has been really positive.”

No download numbers or revenue information will be released at this point, she adds.

RIM has made efforts to distinguish its storefront from the App Store in an attempt to win over developers. The lowest-priced application is $2.99 rather than the popular 99 cents price on Apple’s store, although free applications are available on both stores.

It’s all part of a plan to woo developers, according to Kevin Restivo, senior software analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. The selling angle is corporate BlackBerry users are more likely to spend money than consumer iPhone users.

“RIM needed to make its app store and accompanying incentives different to some degree, so they’re wisely putting more skin into the game,” he says.

Developers are given an 80 per cent share of the revenue from App World sales, while RIM takes 20 per cent. Apple takes a bigger bite out of developer revenues flowing through App Store, with a 30 per cent share.

But the most popular downloads are free of charge. All of the top 25 most-downloaded applications on App World are currently free.

That doesn’t mean the developers aren’t making money, Ruddock says. Viigo is a free application that makes money with a federated revenue model.

“Many of our revenue sources are tightly linked to the number of users we have and the amount of time they spend in Viigo,” he says. “The more often people visit the store and see what’s new, the better our ability to drive a reasonable margin per user.”

Viigo earns money through ad sales, a commission on sales that are made through Viigo, and also on premium content mostly used by enterprise clients. A small plug-in allows companies to run a Viigo server behind the firewall and deliver intranet-style content directly to workers’ BlackBerrys.

Developers shouldn’t be irked that free applications dominate the popular downloads, Restivo says.

“Free is always attractive, but that’s not to say people won’t pay for applications. RIM has aggregated all the applications in one place and that enhances the value of the BlackBerry.”

BlackBerry users can stomach a higher ceiling price for many applications, Restivo says. One medical program on App World is sold for $200.

RIM’s App World launch did not include a desktop equivalent. Apple tapped its popular iTunes software as a way for users to sift through mobile apps on the desktop, as well as on their mobile device. This may be a shortcoming, sources say.

“I would very much encourage RIM to think about completing the user experience on the desktop,” Ruddock says. “Developers with Apple now have the ability to have in-app billing that goes back through iTunes, and that’s so powerful.”

Viigo spreads virally based on friend-to-friend recommendations, he adds. This ability could really be enhanced for App World if there were a way to seamlessly click on something on your desktop and then see it transferred to your smartphone.

“Right now, the desktop application is an advantage for Apple,” Restivo says.
 
The first order of buisness is to get BlackBerry App World rolled out globally, Hoekstra says. But feedback from the community will be taken into consideration.

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