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RIM Investing $100M to Build Developer Community – Is it Too Late?

Research in Motion (RIM) became a global leader in wireless innovation when it revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the Blackberry in 1999.  However, since that time, following introduction of other competing products, its market share has declined, losing 95% of its share since 1999.  Reports are circulating that it has even started to liquidate assets, with its jet being sold in order to reduce the operations budget.

So, in a move to try and stop the slide and gain an upturn in its fortunes, as part of its BlackBerry 10 Jam World tour, RIM announced yesterday in Singapore that it is investing $100 to grow the developer community for the Blackberry platform.  The move shows that RIM has recognized that building a developer community is the company’s best chance of making its upcoming Blackberry 10 a success.

Whilst Samsung and iPhone appear to have taken over as they key players in the Smartphone revolution, there are legions of Blackberry fans out there who were the first to experience the flexibility and option a mobile device can offer.  In an attempt to rebuild and grow its community, RIM will run several developer programs to attract developers to the Blackberry platform.

To offer developers a head start, RIM has started distributing 12, 000 BlackBerry 10 Alphas to developers.  The device is a prototype used-in house by RIM engineers.

This appears to be their current preferred method to engage developers to build for the Blackberry platforms, by supporting them with the necessary hardware, as additional to the 12,000 Blackberry 10 Alphas distributed, a further 23,000 PlayBooks have been given out to developers.

To further support this initiative, RIM is expanding its development team from 40 to 130 by the end of the quarter and is also reviving its BlackBerry certified program “to ensure that developers are equipped with the skills and information needed to develop for the BlackBerry platform”.

However, RIM’s paid apps are doing well according to a study by Vision Mobile, which suggests BlackBerry comes out on top in terms of average revenue, at nearly $3,900 per app per month.  BlackBerry developers generate, on average, 4% more than iOS who were second, who in turn generate 35% more than Android developers.

So this might appear that it is not so bad after all.  Well that was the good news, the more worrying news for RIM is that the study goes on to say that BlackBerry developers are looking elsewhere to do their work, already abandoned by 41% of developers with another 14% who use it as their primary platform planning to jump ship.

That news itself shows that it was high time RIM took positive action to retain a foot in the marketplace, However, given the significance of the slide to where they are now and the massive hurdles yet to overcome, the obvious question is, is this all too little, too late and will this help RIM in regaining its lost market share? However, in order for that question to be answered, we will have to wait a little and see for ourselves if that makes any difference.