Research In Motion will soon launch its PlayBook tablet, a device it expects to compete with Motorola's Xoom Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet and Apple's iPad.
But RIM's developer ecosystem got a jolt of harsh reality by a programmer who tried to write an application for the tablet. In a long, detailed and often sarcastic blog post, developer Jamie Murai railed against the BlackBerry App World development process, from registration to loading the app into the company's system.
Several top blogs linked to Murai's piece, and the damage was done. RIM responded to the caustic constructive criticism in a blog post.
The rant was a jolt for RIM, which is struggling to remain relevant in a mobile market where smartphones and tablets based on Apple iOS and Google Android have withered its BlackBerry OS market share in the United States.
Core among Murai's litany of complaints regarding RIM's development process is that RIM requires developers to download the Adobe AIR SDK, the Playbook SDK and the Playbook simulator in three separate downloads.
By comparison, Murai said the iPad requires users to download a single installer that contains the IDE, the SDK and the simulator. "It's not optimal, but I'm sure you have your reasons, right?"
When it came to compiling and sending an app to the simulator, RIM required an application archive, which it did not explain how to do. Then Murai had to return to the command line and type in two long commands to send the app to the simulator. Conversely, he said, iOS and Android developers can simply press the button that says Build and Run.
Later, RIM required Murai to print a notarized statement of identification, take it to a notary with a government-issue ID and return it to RIM. Neither Apple nor Google requires this measure, he said.
In another gripe, although it is currently free to register with App World, RIM will in the future charge developers $200 to build 10 apps. That compares with the $99 Apple charges and the $25 Google charges for unlimited app development.
"You have succeeded in your quest of driving away a perfectly willing developer from your platform. On a more serious note, being the underdog, you need to make your process AT LEAST as simple as Apple's or Google's, if not more so. You need to make your tools AT LEAST as good as Apple's or Google's, if not more so. You have failed at both."
Murai later backtracked on giving up on RIM for the PlayBook, but the damage was done, prompting BlackBerry developer relations head Tyler Lessard to softly defend the company. Lessard acknowledged Murai's claims about the platform and development process as fair and added:
"Our development teams here at RIM have been working hard to get our tools ready for PlayBook launch," Lessard wrote. "While we've come a long way for a pre-release product, we know that we have a lot of work left to do to ensure that our developers can build and distribute apps without any hindering costs or painful download processes."
Lessard promised RIM would improve its processes and communications with developers.
Murai's rant wasn't the only negative press leasing up to the PlayBook's launch. Business Insider was underwhelmed by the PlayBook in limited testing during Mobile World Congress last month.
Meanwhile, experts expect Apple to lap all comers in the tablet marathon March 2 when it introduces its iPad 2, the successor to the smash-hit slate that sold 15 million-plus units to date.