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.
: Onsets MetaMessage”>
Onset, of Santa Cruz, Calif., last week introduced a version of its MetaMessage remote access application that adds new printing capabilities and one-touch Web access for RIMs BlackBerry handheld devices.
MetaMessage 4.0 lets users go to a specific Web page or do a Google search without actually launching a browser. It also adds network printing capabilities to the fax printing capabilities that previous versions of the software supported, officials said.
In addition, the software includes better support for viewing attachments than previous versions, including the ability to view tiny replicas of Microsoft Corp. Excel documents. Rich-text-format files such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint presentations appear similar to their original formats, with bold characters and bullet structure intact.
Onset has provided the ability to view e-mail attachments on the BlackBerry since last year. The software sits on a separate server from the RIM BlackBerry server, though, which means additional costs.
MetaMessage, which works in conjunction with, rather than instead of, the BlackBerry server, costs $3,000 for a 20-user license and $50 for each additional user. When RIM introduces new capabilities for its products, the software always runs on top of the BlackBerry server. The MetaMessage process also takes multiple steps—forwarding the e-mail message to the MetaMessage server and then waiting for a response that consists of the message with an opened attachment.
Onsets customers say its worth it to pay for the third-party applications and additional server, however, as RIM will not offer the ability to view attachments with its own server software until the end of the year.
“RIM only will transmit the message; it does not handle attachments yet, and a lot of our attorneys deal with documents,” said Eva Steiner, director of IT at Dewey Ballantine LLP, a New York-based law firm that uses about 250 BlackBerry devices worldwide.
“The ability to open the documents and read them on the BlackBerry and also direct them to the fax machine and get a hard copy was very important,” Steiner said. “From the first couple of weeks [of using the BlackBerry devices], the attorneys clamored for it. Even when RIM comes out with this, it will be in its infancy stages.”
It can be a financial headache, though, to pay several licensing fees when setting up a wireless system that involves both a carrier and an application provider. To that end, Motient Corp., of Reston, Va., last week launched a plan in which its customers can pay for wireless access server software from Wireless Knowledge Inc. through a long-term service plan.
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