RIM Partners Stymied

Messaging APIs slow to make their way to third-party app developers.

A common complaint about third-party applications for Research In Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry platform is, more often than not, they dont support the phone-enabled BlackBerry 5810. And RIMs partners say thats RIMs fault.

While RIM has been selling the 5810 for six months and has announced plans for several more phone-cum-pager BlackBerrys, the company has yet to release the messaging APIs for the device. Sources close to the company said RIM has been slow to release APIs because the company has its hands full switching from C++, which is the development platform for previous devices, to Java, which is the development platform for the 5810.

RIMs partners said the company needs to spend more time supporting its developers and less time competing with them. For instance, RIM has been busy preparing to release software that enables users to open e-mail attachments from their BlackBerry devices, which is something customers want but also something that third-party developer Onset Technology Inc. has offered since last year.

"We still have not received the APIs and are not aware that they have been released to anyone externally," said Don Baumgartner, business unit manager for universal mobile connectivity at Extended Systems Inc., in Boise, Idaho, which develops corporate remote application access software for wireless devices, including the BlackBerry.

"It is natural to think that developers would like to support other applications on the RIM platform, but we have not been able to quantitatively discern the demand because of this lack of platform information from RIM," Baumgartner said. "RIM trails CE and Palm as a development platform, but I believe there is potential for them if they make it easier for developers."

RIM officials said third-party developers are important to the company, but unlike their competitors, they do not necessarily gauge the companys success by developer support.

"If you look at Palm [Inc.] as the example, Ive certainly seen them promote the number of developers, but ultimately the measure of their success had to be devices," said Mark Guibert, vice president of brand management at RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario. "An important measure of success for us will reside in application development, but ultimately its about productivity."

Officials at Onset said that they received the initial APIs this month but that RIM representatives had told them the final client would not be available until November.