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Redefining the App Gap for BlackBerry 10s Future

By December 15, 2013Editorial

BlackBerry 10 is not even a year old–yet there have been massive moves to establish the young platform as a top contender across markets around the globe. With the initial launch of BB10, marketing was very specific,¬†aimed directly at those would be “prosumers” the enterprising minds that give weight to communication over multimedia and the saturated app catalogs of fart apps and flashlights.

With the pending release of BlackBerry 10.2.1 the Canadian outfit is seeking to allow users direct installation of Android APKs assuring users that 90% of all the Android apps out there will work well on their shiny new BB10 devices: Instagram, Netflix, Hulu, SnapChat,Skype, and many more will work at near native speeds thanks to the very special unlocked performance from the engineers over at BlackBerry.

+Rumors are still swirling that Google Play will come to BlackBerry 1o devices and that BlackBerry will become another Android OEM in a sense (with their QNX operating system containerizing Android JellyBean 4.2.2). Currently I don’t believe a deal between Google and BlackBerry is in the works. I DO, however believe Google and BBRY are silent partners, in a much larger global application gambit.

QNX is a POSIX compliant real time OS, it’s more akin to the UNIX base like of iOS than the Linux base of Android; but still BlackBerry has been able to craft in an Android Runtime that functions remarkably well. In BlackBerry World there has been a disgruntled influx of Android apps. Skype, SoundCloud and many others are simply Android ports and users generally don’t see the difference between now that performance is much improved. But the REAL story is much larger and more profound than anyone takes the time to realize.

Let me send you back in time for a reality check:

Remember when a developer was able to get PlayBook emulating iOS applications unmodded much like our Android Runtime on BB10? Yes, the QNX platform can literally handle almost every coding language out there and run them symmetrically with very little lag. Blah blah why is this important? Because it means BlackBerry has no limitations to their app catalog, expect themselves. While there is not heavy demand, the tools exist for iOS apps to be ported to Android and BB10–and BlackBerry already supports direct Android ports.

The point I’m trying to make is: App ecosystems have silo-ed users into two camps iOS and Android but in short time companies are working to bring down those barriers. And BlackBerry is working more closely with these projects than they will ever publically admit. While BlackBerry invests in tooling, Microsoft invests hundreds of millions of apps only to not be properly supported once they are released. It’s a crooked setup for the Microsoft camp as their users will always be behind on app updates as they hit the major platforms before the minor ones.

It’s happening NOW. BlackBerry 10 represents the future. A unbiased universal operating system, app catalog and platform. Direct iOS ports are already showing up in BlackBerry World and they work even better than Android ports in my opinion. As pictured in the featured image you’ll see that MusicOm has ported their iOS title and it runs marvelously on BB10.

That is the real measure of BB1o its flexibility and resilience as it continues driving innovation for BlackBerry. Those who do not see what’s coming should lift their heads from their screens and wake up. If BlackBerry can narrowly invalidate Android in 1 year by creating a truly amazing hybridization–who knows what tomorrow may bring.

James Nieves

Author James Nieves

Manning the helm here @BBRYFLOW. Feel free to shoot me an email.

More posts by James Nieves
  • brandon_martin

    Good article! If BlackBerry could offer easy access for consumer browsing and purchasing of both Android and iOS apps from BlackBerry World that would certainly be a part of a distinguishing sales pitch. However, I’m not sure that easy porting of iOS apps or even the 10.2.1 Android runtime provides the dead simple, almost brainless act of app consumption that consumers need. For the app gap to be closed with emulators and runtimes, BlackBerry needs to fashion their solution to meet the experiential expectations of these users.

    In talking with sales people at carrier stores, I’ve had a couple tell me they feel betrayed by BlackBerry’s pitch that BB10 runs Android apps. One explained to me: “As a technical matter it does, but 95% of our customers will find it an unacceptable struggle to do so… and a couple of customers have told us they feel like we deceived them when they returned the phones.” I’m not sure that 10.2.1 fully addresses this. Frankly, BlackBerry lost the app race to begin with because of how long it took the company to build BlackBerry App World and integrate around it. Even legacy BlackBerry users back in the day didn’t take to using multiple storefronts and downloading apps from places on the web.

    Having said all that, I’ll also add that I’m a little bit of an outlier on the “major app” aspect of the “app gap” issue altogether. I think too much community concern with “major apps” as defined as apps that are popular on other platforms is a serious problem created in no small part by BlackBerry’s online “commentators.” I love Kevin over at CrackBerry, but the guy setup and furthered the notion that BlackBerry 10 just can’t be successful without an Instagram app or Netflix app or a Vine app or some other app… Literally, this framing means that success for BlackBerry is coming as close to providing their competitors ecosystem as possible. And if you think about it, that framing really means that the competition will perpetually define what is valuable and BlackBerry will rush to try to catch up. If you have brand loyalty to BlackBerry you might stay, but if apps on other platforms are the “major ones” and what’s important is having major apps and running them as fast as possible, well, BlackBerry will never really catch up.

    That’s why I believe BlackBerry should adopt a “killer app” initiative. They should work closely with the best and brightest in their fledgling ecosystem to develop a couple of dozen exclusive apps that Apple and Android users should drool over. These apps should hook into the BB10 OS or hardware in ways that would be difficult to copy on other platforms or have some other barrier to duplication. Not easy, but the success stories will bring other developers. And BlackBerry users should be proud of the advantage the killer apps provide. This is akin to iOS users showing everyone Instagram after it was first released (and not available on Android) or Amiga users touting the strengths of the Video Toaster or Mac users recording every damn web development tutorial in Coda or TextWrangler or editing tutorial FCP or Windows Phone users showing off the Nokia photography apps, or Windows users playing Crysis in front of their Mac friends. That’s how platforms compete. It’s not about also being able to do what they other guy does almost as well, it’s about people needing to join the BlackBerry community if they want to use this killer app or do this phenomenal thing. In the desktop computer space, all the PC competitors have had emulators and ports, but their own exclusive “killer apps” have been the only thing to really keep them in the game. Adopting this mindset may mean a war within the BlackBerry community because Kevin and others simply will not accept a definition of success in which the apps people really want and should be proud of originate on BlackBerry. But, in the end, if BB10 is to become a competitive platform rather than just a good OS, that is what needs to happen. BlackBerry users need to say, “yeah, Instagram is cool, but I really couldn’t give up BlackBerry Express or Blaq or [insert names of killer apps].” Pursuing ports from other platforms makes sense and BlackBerry should do it, but you can never close an “app gap” that way… and it’s bad strategy to make success contingent on doing so. The goal needs to be to create a little app envy in iOS and Android users. And that’s where the community should be focused, not on this idea that the phones can’t compete unless they have some app other phones have. Windows Phone commentators have had the pride and community strength to avoid this dismal mindset to some extent and that’s no small part of why they pitched more successfully in the US and Europe than BlackBerry did with BB10. It’s time for BlackBerry users to be proud of the platform again… and for developers to give them exclusive, powerful reasons to do so.

    • jmznvs

      I think they are well on the way to your “killer app” idea and are using TAT and their framework to slowly build toward the goal (see: http://berryflow.com/bb10tatflare/ ) the beauty of their tooling can be see in the Invocation Framework that allows you to pull cards of native apps with ease allowing the native BB10 ecosystem to unite and engage in ways to other platforms cannot (and iOS and Android integrate their systems but the experience is fragmented) with this editorial I really meant to remark on the capability of the OS to handle multiple development ideologies within one cohesive platform. Something we’ve never truly seen on a mobile operating system before.

      I agree they need some app envy! 10.2.1 wont close the app gap as it still will require the knowhow to setup properly for general users. But from a tooling perspective BlackBerry is making huge strides to give users options. And as a customer that makes me very happy. It may not be perfect (because the circumstance) but they are working to silent my qualms and many other users.

      SOON my friend, I believe BlackBerry will answer your call as well CC: http://berryflow.com/blackberry-blend-dashboard-fuse-picpassword-10-2-1/

      Killer apps are coming indeed and superapp specialization will be the future. Apps working together in ways we’ve previously not seen. But TOOLING is what makes it all possible and on that front BlackBerry has been ingenious. I am proud of my platform! Show me your keyboard, your camera, your inbox! BlackBerry can leads the devs to water, but can they make them drink?