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RIM Supporting Android Apps Just to Shut Up Analysts? Is it Working?

who what where when why

RIM dropped a bomb on the press last week with the announcement that the BlackBerry PlayBook will be able to run ported Android apps. It has been really fun to see how the press and analysts are responding to the announcement. Even RIM admits that the reason they opened the door for Android application emulation on the PlayBook is to appease the haters who keep harping about what Jim Balsillie calls “Application Tonnage.” Essentially the race to higher numbers of “apps.”

The sad part is these haters have not skipped a beat and are already complaining about the “Android Support” not being ideal. Here is the new list of complaints:

  • The BlackBerry PlayBook will only support Android 2.3 apps and not the newer tablet designed Android 3.0 HoneyComb apps!
  • This Android support will be done through a virtualization layer and may result in slower apps
  • It will be so complicated for developers to port their apps that they just wont! You can’t get the Android Marketplace.
  • Developers will simply create apps for Android and not for the BlackBerry PlayBook

First of all I have to commend RIM for changing the conversation here. At first the complaints were all about there not being enough apps for the PlayBook to compete with the more established iPad. Now RIM has performed a “Jedi Mind Trick” and the conversation is all about the Android support. It gets even better when you consider that this feature is unnecessary but it managed to get EVERYBODY talking about the BlackBerry PlayBook. Kudos RIM. So back to the complaints:

The BlackBerry PlayBook is “old Skool” it will only support Android 2.3 apps not 3.0 HoneyComb?

This one is a pretty easy answer if you just stopped and thought about it for a second. Google has released the source code for Android 2.3 which means RIM can build an emulator based on that code. Google currently refuses to release the source code for the tablet optimized Android 3.0 HoneyComb due to the fact that it would lead to a “bad user experience” since they “took a bunch of shortcuts” to release it. In other words Android 3.0 is half-baked currently and Google rushed it out the door to compete. My guess is once Google releases the source code RIM could just as easily decide to upgrade the virtualization layer. Right now they cannot promise support for Android 3.0 OS apps because Google can’t even promise it. :)

But, but, dude the Android apps might run slower on the BlackBerry PlayBook since it is “Virtualized”?

Ah so now we come down to the real meat and bones. What most people don’t understand is that most of the resource intensive Android apps (think games) will NOT be portable to the BlackBerry PlayBook. This is because games like Angry Birds are created with the Android NDK (native development kit) which is not what RIM is porting. The thing is most “Apps” are not resource intensive. Most of the “Apps” users are clamoring for are simply dumb-ed down website experiences where slower performance is mostly irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong there may be some apps that are trying to compute “Pi” to the thousandth decimal point but most of them simply search for restaurants near you, movie reviews, and such. If you have ever used virtualization software like VMware or Parallels just consider of the speed difference in browsing the web on the main machine or the virtual guest machine. Irrelevant right?

Android developers will have to “port” their apps since RIM will not have access to the Android Marketplace! Developers are lazy!

I realize the stereotype exists that developers are smoking mary jane in a basement somewhere worshiping Apple and his holiness Steve Jobs. The fact of the matter is there are more than enough developers to go around. RIM has really taken the shotgun approach to offering environments to as many developers as possible. They have announced or released SDK’s for Flash/AIR, WebWorks, C/C++, Java, and Android Java.

With the Android Player support RIM is appealing to the lowest common denominator. They are saying simply take your already developed Android app, code sign it, put it on App World and suddenly you have a whole new revenue stream. RIM did something similar when they first decided to support J2ME Java apps years ago on their smartphones. While I admit many developers might not be bothered RIM is not targeting those developers. They are offering Android developers a way to test the PlayBook waters without having to create a whole new app from the get go. If the strategy works, only time will tell. But it has yet to be done in the Tablet space to give RIM some credit.

If RIM allows developers to port Android apps won’t developers just stick to Android?

Now this is a solid question. I am not sure what will happen but RIM actually has a good thing going with the Android support. They suddenly have thousands of Android developers talking about the BlackBerry PlayBook as a possible platform. Don’t believe me? Look at all the Android blogs covering the news and the forum threads on it. I cannot answer how RIM will design the virtualization environment to allow for native and Android apps side by side. I give RIM the benefit of the doubt that they will find a way and will leave it at that until we learn more.

In conclusion I think RIM has done a brilliant job of changing the conversation for analysts and the press. They also managed to get tons of coverage for supporting a virtualization layer after launch. In other words this was hopefully a smart move on RIM Marketing’s part to change the conversation from the “lack of apps” to “BlackBerry running Android? WTF?”

Share your thoughts in the comments…

20 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. ROFL…I always love your hater articles. Nice work Ronen!

  2. Nice article!!

  3. RIM is taking a 2 step process.

    1. Just list your app for the playbook… great, now your making money for your app on the playbook platform.

    2. Then, do a proper port to take advantage of the real eco-system of the playbook.

    Acually there’s a number 3.

    3. Your running your app as VM android session, and the competition comes along and released there apps under the native playbook tools, give them now the advantage over your app. So what are you going to do, just sit back and let the competition beat you? (or take money away from you?)

  4. Glad you guys like them. I just find it has been totally one sided from other sources and want to correct that. RIM really needs to step up their game on the PR and marketing front.
    Stay tuned for part III :)

    • Well done ronen. Your spot on as usual. I was floored by the “haterz” all out attack on the playbook. I’m no BB fan boy but I know genious RIM so super slow when it comes to PR but I think they’re starting to figure it out. The best defense is a good offense. As you so approiately pointed out “change the discussion” and you’ll change perception. Looking forward to pt 3

  5. Agreed…..patiently waiting. 😉

  6. Jim Balsillie gave the naysayers all of the ‘criticism fodder’ they needed during last weeks earnings call. Jim’s clarity and articulation is never good on these calls, but his performance on last weeks call was absolutely horrible, IMO. RIM investors should feel rightfully insulted by how ill prepared RIM are for their quarterly earnings calls. It’s RIM’s opportunity to shine with respect to their past accomplishments and future plans, yet they dismally fail to deliver. For one thing, Mike Lazaridis should be in attendance to provide an update and answer questions on the companies technical direction and strategy, development efforts, and vision. I don’t believe Mike has ever attended a quarterly call. So, it’s no wonder the analyst community, and anyone else who listens in (bloggers, etc..) find significant fault, and write about it.

    • I think you may have a point here. I feel much better about the future of RIM when listening to Mike rather then Jim. If you were making decisions on RIM based only on Jim’s ramblings I see how it would be hard to have a positive outlook on the company.

  7. great article Ronen, I mainly see the 2.3 android app environment a start. Who says that future updates wont be supported?

  8. The idea that not supporting Android 3.0 is going to be an issue, is preposterous. Last I heard the number of applications that required OS 3.0 was less then 2 dozen.

    The bigger issue is if this will cause developers to just stick with android. As you noted running in an emulation layer will not really have too much of an effect on performance (especially with the PlayBook’s hardware). The real issue I think is the integration that makes what RIM calls “super apps”. For a standalone game there is no reason that running in a sandbox would be an issue. However if you want a deeper integration with either the OS or other applications you will need to develop an actual PlayBook application.

    • I may be wrong but I think a couple of other announcements RIM made suggest that for games the playbook is going to be a better platform.

      The focus of RIM should be very straightforward: Do everything possible to make it easy to port content to the playbook. Android will outsell playbook simply because so many manufactures will be selling android tablets. RIM really has to make it a no-brainer to port content to the playbook.

  9. Anyway, the negativity won’t stop until the tablet drops. Really when you think about it RIM hasn’t rally let people experience the playbook so until that happens everyone’s opinion of the playbook will be based on BB phones, and to most people concerned with apps that screams not as good as Android.

    I’m pretty sure once the thing drops the reviews will be pretty positive if only because, to be honest, expectations are so low.

    I think you will read stuff like “Yes, less apps than apple, but holy cow this is a lot better than I thought it was going to be”

  10. Nothing short of a bag of dirty socks is gonna stop these haters. “Haters gonna hate.”

    Well written.

  11. very good read

  12. RIM really needs to step up their marketing game to dispel all the misconceptions out there. One of the main criticisms I have read about the PlayBook is that its taking so long to come out, so naturally, the natives are getting restless. That will change once the PlayBook finally comes out.

  13. It does certainly have people talking about the Playbook. It’s getting the word out that Android apps may run. Let them complain. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

  14. The fact that no other company like Palm, Nokia, etc… could come up with such a brilliant idea is something that intrigues me so much! So what if its a Temporary fix for the time being… Those Apple loving analyst don’t want to see Apple go down, and that is why they are selling the stock to screw RIM over, but RIM is getting all the negative attention, and it’s going to push them further!

  15. It’s nice to read an article where someone KNOWS what they are talking about! All of the Playbook haters sound more ignorant when they write articles and their only technical commentary is, “ipad is better”. Thank you for your comments, I’m not a technical person but I understood what you are saying and I’m really looking forward to RIM making all the haters eat their words!

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