Developers Shun BlackBerry

Developers are turning away from creating new BlackBerry applications, as Research in Motion’s financial and personnel woes continue.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s declining market share and operating system complexity sapping the lure for developers. They say BlackBerry devices just aren’t worth it anymore, especially when compared to the profitability of programming for Apple and Google platforms.

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

Developers like Seesmic, which create social media apps, and Purple Forge, maker of fan apps for the Miami Dolphins and singer Taylor Swift, say it is increasingly difficult to create apps on BlackBerry’s platform due to RIM’s confusing operating system and varying control methods, like its touch screen and keyboard devices.

“As soon as RIM brought in a touch screen 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, Purple Forge CEO. “What Apple scored big on is having a touch screen and a button and that’s it.”

The mass migration doesn’t bode well for RIM, which has fallen on hard times. The company has seen its market share fall to about 13 per cent and stock prices decrease 50 per cent since the start of the year.

RIM failed to properly anticipate the rise of app-centric devices in the market, along with ancillary app marketplaces. And as a result, its ecosystem lacks apps that consumers now thrive upon, and losing developers further threatens its viability in the market.

Investors appear fed up with the company’s direction as well. Earlier this month, investment firm Northwest & Ethical proposed RIM separate its roles of chairman and CEO, and instead name an independent board member as chairman.

Currently, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the co-founders of the company, split their executive roles, but investors feel this isn’t a winning strategy.

RIM announced its profits fell 10 per cent from a year ago, adding that quarterly sales have dropped for the first time since 2005. As a result, the company laid off 200 workers at its Canadian headquarters last week.

RIM executives have been leaving for the greener pastures of rival companies. Its vice president of marketing and media, Brian Wallace, left the BlackBerry maker to join Samsung. Earlier in the year, the company’s chief marketing officer, Keith Pardy, jumped ship as well.

The company’s lone shining light, its new QNX operating system, is now hobbled by the news of developers leaving the BlackBerry brand. Programmers are waiting to see how well a new QNX line of “super-smartphones” sells before developing apps for the OS.

But the plan poses a Catch-22, as developers won’t create apps for the OS unless it sells well, but the line will be a tough sell to consumers without strong app support to rival Apple and Google’s massive app markets.

RIM’s reluctance to update its devices and operating system, even as Apple and Google take chunks out of its market share, came back to bite it. The QNX platform appears promising, but may truly be too little, too late, especially if developers no longer believe BlackBerry is a viable option for them.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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