More developers defecting from RIM
It's not just Seesmic abandoning the beleaguered BlackBerry platform
Starting on Thursday, social media management application maker Seesmic will cease support for Research in Motion's Blackberry.
When the company made the announcement last Monday in a blog post titled "Important update for BlackBerry users," Seesmic explained it was making the move "in order to focus development efforts on our most popular mobile platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7."
Let's face it, that last one is brutal.
Now other developers -- along with a high-ranking marketing executive, not to mention analysts and investors -- are walking away from RIM, which continues to lose smartphone market share in the U.S. and earlier this month sharply downgraded its full-year forecast.
According to Bloomberg, in addition to Seesmic:
Mobile Roadie LLC, 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.
Granted, some of this may sound slightly trivial, especially if you're not a Dolphins fan or can't tell the difference between Taylor Swift and Taylor Hicks. (In case you aren't aware, Taylor Swift is hugely popular; Taylor Hicks, not so much.)
The issue isn't these particular apps. It's the trend. And the trend is that developers no longer consider the BlackBerry platform worth developing for.
But that's not necessarily because they see RIM on a slide toward oblivion, though that's certainly part of it. According to Purple Forge CEO Brian Hurley, it's really all about the development hassle. He tells Bloomberg:
"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. What Apple scored big on is having a touch screen and a button and that’s it. In deploying Apple applications, there are very few surprises. In Android, there are increasingly more surprises. But in BlackBerry, there are immediately lots of gotchas across the board."
You can't accuse RIM of being ignorant of this problem, or of not taking it seriously. RIM's decision to support Android apps on their new QNX-based OS must have been very painful and probably resulted in a backlash from partners who had invested a lot in their existing app platform.
To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, "Simplicity, simplicity."
(Yes, I just referenced Thoreau in a blog post about smartphones, which is like putting Gandhi's face on a nuclear warhead. I know it's wrong. But at least I didn't create this app.)
The bottom line is that developers are doing a job, and have to consider the return on investment of their time. Like everyone else, they don't care much for surprises, especially in the form of problems that make developing applications a more difficult, drawn-out process.
Christian Zibreg over at 9to5Mac suggests that "RIM’s luck could change in early 2012 when QNX, their new operating system powering the PlayBook tablet, is adapted for BlackBerry smartphones, but it will be really hard for them to catch up on the lost time."
I think "really hard" is an understatement, even assuming -- which we shouldn't -- that QNX is running on the BlackBerry smartphones by early next year.
Which must seem a long way off for RIM right now.