BlackBerry Twitter Application Launched in Public Beta

RIM announced the launch of a public beta for its Twitter for BlackBerry application, marking an expansion of a limited application preview running since early February. The application notifies users of new tweets and reply/mentions, in addition to other features. While RIM has attempted to both appeal to consumers with devices such as the Curve 8520 and shore up its business customers with initiatives such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, the company's smartphone market share has remained relatively stagnant in the face of fierce competition such as Google Android and the Apple iPhone.

Research In Motion launched the public beta of a Twitter for BlackBerry application April 8, expanding a limited preview that had been running since early February.

Features include notifications of new tweets and reply/mentions on the BlackBerry Messages list and Twitter application icon, as well as a "splat" on the BlackBerry home screen ribbon. Users can edit their profile and change their profile image from within the application, which also allows for building customized lists of fellow Twitter users. Those wishing to avoid eyestrain can enlarge the profile pictures for easier viewing.

The application also includes personalization settings, allowing users to adjust fonts and either show or hide the navigation bar and Tweetbox, and increased on-device caching for Timeline. It is available for download from BlackBerry App World and BlackBerry Beta Zone.

While RIM had no new BlackBerry devices debuting at March's CTIA Wireless 2010 conference, the company nonetheless could stand to benefit from February's announcement that Verizon Wireless will extend Skype mobile services onto several smartphones, including the BlackBerry Storm 9530. Under the terms of the agreement, Verizon customers will be able to make and receive unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls to any Skype user, call international phone numbers at Skype Out calling rates, and send and receive instant messages to other Skype users.

Although BlackBerry has long held a prized place among many business users, RIM faces considerable pressure from a number of competitors in the smartphone space, including the Apple iPhone, Google Android and the upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices. Recent BlackBerry phones such as the Curve 8520 have attempted to appeal to the consumer market with increased multimedia functions, but RIM's stagnant market share suggests that strategy may offer only limited returns in the short to medium term.

According to comScore, RIM's share of the overall U.S. smartphone market declined by 1 percent between September and December 2009, to 41.9 percent, even as Apple and Google experienced respective gains of 1.2 percent and 2.7 percent. Microsoft's own share of the market declined by 1 point, to 18 percent, during that same period.

At the same time, RIM has been attempting to shore up its business market with initiatives such as the Feb. 16 introduction of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, which synchronizes BlackBerry devices with either Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Windows Small Business Server. RIM has positioned the free platform as a cost-effective way for smaller IT departments to securely manage employees' devices on an office network, giving IT administrators granular control over policies such as password resetting and device wiping via a Web-based interface.