BlackBerry, after years of hard work and disappointing delays, introduced its brand-new, from-scratch BlackBerry 10 mobile platform Jan. 30, with more than 70,000 apps to back it, including more than 1,000 of the top apps around the world.
When the BB10-running Z10 went on sale in the United States in March, there were more than 100,000 apps in BlackBerry World, and today the store includes more than the top 1,500 apps. And still—amid news that BlackBerry, facing facts, has announced it’s open to being acquired—the glaring absence of many extremely popular U.S. apps continues to be a barrier to adoption for many users.
One imagines that BlackBerry isn’t blind to these omissions or naive to the reality that for some consumers, the absence of an app like Instagram or Starbucks is a deal-breaker. To understand what the issue is, eWEEK spoke with Marty Mallick, BlackBerry’s vice president of global alliances.
Mallick pointed out that the omissions in BlackBerry World tend to overshadow what the store does include.
In games, for example, yes, Candy Crush Saga, a huge game, is missing, said Mallick. But while six months ago “all kinds other games were missing,” they’re now in place.
“Disney now has a lot of their key titles on BlackBerry 10. EA has a wealth of games. So do Gameloft and Saga. Unity just brought their entire platform over to BlackBerry 10, allowing tens of thousands of game developers to very quickly support the platform. So my challenge is kind of how to change the perception out there,” said Mallick.
That said, he absolutely acknowledges that there are still key apps missing. Of the 10 missing apps eWEEK recently highlighted in a slide show, Mallick said BlackBerry has relationships with every one of them and has presented each with a package expressing “the opportunity for them and the support BlackBerry will provide to them” if they bring their app to BB10.
“So, to your question of whose end is the issue on, I’d say for the most part … it’s a business decision from those application providers, [regarding] when is the right time for them to support a new platform,” said Mallick.
On that front, it’s important to reiterate that BB10 is a brand-new platform that requires vendors to build a new app for it. Pandora, for example, is available on older BlackBerry models, but a new app hasn’t been built for BB10.
BlackBerry is doing everything it can to encourage the vendors, including offering tech support, free tools and “opportunities related to their business,” Mallick said. For each vendor, it customizes its pitch.
“We really look and say, ‘What are the motivators, what are the obstacles preventing you?’ In some cases, it’s marketing support. … In other cases, it’s maintenance,” said Mallick. “To be clear, in cases where it’s warranted, we do offer funding, to help bring people to the platform.”
BlackBerry Explains Why Key Apps Are Still Missing From BB10
Mallick added, “A lot of times the intention is there, it’s just their timeline. … So a lot of our effort is showing them why they should prioritize it and helping to accelerate the timeline.”
The Perception Problem
There can be a perception that BlackBerry still doesn’t quite get consumer needs, or isn’t treating apps like a priority, and for those reasons, Mallick said he’s glad for any opportunity to make clear to users that BlackBerry is in fact “very aggressively recruiting” applications.
This brings us back to what is already available.
Take sports, for example. “Normally there’d be a conversation about where’s the NFL app for BlackBerry—but there isn’t, because we have it!” Mallick laughs.
When Major League Baseball (MLB) ended support for legacy native BlackBerry devices two years ago, there was “a giant uproar,” he said. But when the MLB announced that they have “the best app ever” on BlackBerry 10, there’s no talk of it.
Moving to another product category, there’s talk of Netflix being missing, he continued, but no talk of PlayOn, which lets users stream any service they have on their PC onto their BlackBerry 10 devices, which means users can watch all their services, more than 60 of them, including Netflix and HBO Go.
There’s also Sony Crackle, a native “with a vast selection of movies, and it’s all completely free. So you don’t even have to give over your $8 a month—it’s free, and you can connect your BlackBerry device to your 60-inch TV and watch all you want,” Mallick said.
For music, and media, Mallick offers similar examples of apps that get too little attention but highlight the richness of the BlackBerry 10 platform.
“We just really have a lot of cool stuff on the platform. We’re very grateful, and we work really well with those partners that have come to the platform so far, and they’re seeing the success of being on BlackBerry 10,” said Mallick. “And to the partners who aren’t there yet, our doors are wide open. … We’re willing to do what it takes … to make sure we have a very healthy and successful system.”