Will RIM win back developers?

Alec Saunders is RIM’s new Head of Developer Relations. With RIM getting a lot of negative coverage recently, it’s Saunders’ job to set out his vision for the future of developer relations and talk developers round into not giving up on the firm.

Talking to the Inside Blackberry Developer’s Blog, Saunders said:”There’s no reason why developers shouldn’t be able to make a great living just by serving BlackBerry customers. And my team’s job is to make it as attractive, easy and fun as possible for developers to build for the BlackBerry platform – smartphones and tablet alike.”

However, the question on everyone’s lips is how RIM’s going to impress developers back to working with Blackberry. Saunders’ solutions is simple: hard work, support and fixing any issues which developers may have against the company.

“Developer evangelism is all about personal contact, listening, responding, and educating.”

Recently, RIM has been hit by a whirlwind of negativity and bad publicity. With market shares slipping to seemingly more nimble competition, disappointing PlayBook tablet sales, and the now infamous three-day outage leaving users without email or internet service, RIM will be working hard to win back developers and mount a credible fight-back against Apple and Android.

The organisation offered $100 worth of apps free for its users after the three-day outage in mid-October. As well as a compensatory offer, its aim was to create visibility and awareness for the amount of apps available to download.

“We’re going to work very closely with the developer community,” said Saunders. “Expand on support and programs that make it easy and rewarding for developers to create apps, be in the midst of developers to understand their needs and secure a great developer experience, and identify and remove the barriers developers face in supporting our platforms and doing business with us.”

With the new QNX software released for new Blackberry devices, it opens up another market for developers and a new future for RIM. However, Saunders explained that app developers don’t need to let go of BBOS just yet, as he confirms the software has a firm place in the market for many years to come.

“We’ll have customers on BBOS based smartphones for years to come, and they’ll continue to want to buy software too. And, we’ll have other customers who want to migrate to the latest and greatest devices as soon as they are available. It all depends on the customer.”

Saunders also predicted the rise of HTML5 for mobile apps. With Adobe deciding to cease the development of its Flash Player plug-in, which runs on the PlayBook tablet, developers will look for a solution. Saunders encourages the use of HTML5, as it will build applications for both the BBOS and the new QNX software.

“The best part of that is that we’re so well positioned to compete on HTML5,” he said. “With BlackBerry WebWorks HTML5 you can build awesome high performance applications using web technologies, and you can do it in days instead of weeks or months. [...] I think you’ll be surprised by the rich quality of the applications created with WebWorks.”

Saunders will certainly have his work cut out in the months to come. RIM’s problems are highlighted by new figures released from comScore’s MobiLens survey. The company has lost 1.8 million US subscribers during the three months up to September. Its share of the smartphones market also fell from 23.5% to 18.9% during that period, despite of the release of the new Blackberry 7 during the final month.

To learn more about the future of devices, multiplatform apps and the latest opportunities for developers, visit www.apps-world.net/europe on 29-30 November in London, and hear from leading global brands and industry experts.

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