RIM CEO: Apple Is Wrong for Having an App for That

Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie Nov. 16 came out swinging versus Apple for its closed iPhone and iPad development environment at the Web 2.0 Summit.

SAN FRANCISCO-Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie Nov. 16 challenged Apple's model of offering an SDK for smartphones and applications within a closed system that doesn't support standard technologies such as Adobe's Flash multimedia software.

"We believe that you can bring the mobile to the Web but you don't need to go through some kind of control point of an SDK, and that's the core part of our message," said Balsillie at the Web 2.0 Summit here. "You don't need an app for the Web" or to use a special defined set of development tools.

This stance stands in stark contrast to Apple's closed development platform of programmers writing apps using Apple-sanctioned software and SDK.

Balsillie said RIM's BlackBerry development environment lets programmers publish apps to a BlackBerry without writing any native code, or use Adobe AIR SDK and have a local runtime on a BlackBerry smartphone.

"So you reject the appification of the Web?" asked Summit host John Battelle. "Correct," Balsillie said, challenging Apple's "there's an app for that" slogan for its iPhone App Store, which has more than 300,000 applications.

Balsillie's comments were tinged with a note of bitterness in the wake of unprovoked attacks on RIM's business by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. One month ago, Jobs appeared on Apple's fourth-quarter earnings call to tout how Apple had passed RIM in smartphone sales for the quarter.

RIM is still the leader in smartphone sales in the United States, though Apple's iPhone and Google Android handsets are eating enough of RIM's share to pose a threat.

"We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the immediate future," Jobs said. "I think it's going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform. ... With 300,000 apps in Apple's App Store, RIM has a high mountain to climb."

Jobs also challenged the notion of rivals building tablet computers with 7-inch screens, which he claimed make them more of a hybrid, in-between device than a true tablet.

The attack prompted Balsillie, whose company is preparing to launch the RIM BlackBerry Playbook for business users next year, to respond that 7-inch tablets are fine and that Apple's refusal to support Adobe's Flash for its iPhone and iPad tablet was a poor choice.

"While Apple's attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple," he wrote in an Oct. 19 blog post, "developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of Websites that use Flash."

Balsillie sought to back up tablet talk at the Summit, pointing attendees to a YouTube video that pits the Playbook versus the iPad.

The demo showed Playbook to be three to four times faster than the iPad for some apps because it leverages a multicore processor.

Balsillie also suggested RIM will add near field communications support, similar to what Google CEO Eric Schmidt demonstrated here yesterday, adding that "we'd be fools not to have it."

Balsillie said RIM is by no means "stuck" in the smartphone market with the new BlackBerry Torch, which received mixed reviews.

He believes consumer adoption of smartphones is rampant enough around the world to give RIM time to bolster its lead.