By: Devin Mace
By now, mostly everyone in the online BlackBerry community is aware of the statement made by Alec Saunders, Research In Motion’s Vice President in charge of Developer Relations. On Twitter Saunders said that in the upcoming PlayBook OS update RIM was removing sideloading feature. Some have suggested that the extraction of this feature isn’t such a bad thing. Others in the community are in an uproar. As a BlackBerry user for the past 5 years and a PlayBook owner, I have to say that this is one turn that if RIM takes, might be one of the last straws for me with BlackBerry.
I understand the “piracy” argument and why RIM is catering to Android developers on this issue. PlayBook owners and other BlackBerry users are demanding the same app experiences that Android and Apple users are experiencing. In order to meet our demands, RIM appears to be doing anything Android developers are asking for in order to meet both our demands, and theirs.
But in doing so, here is the problem: RIM will destroy one of the things that makes BlackBerry great. Specifically, I’m talking about the lack of a walled garden. Apple uses this to control User Experience, to combat piracy, and to control the monetary flow to every single Apple mobile device. Sound familiar? That is what we’re heading for with this move by RIM.
Let me take a step back and walk you through this. First, as we know from RIM, OS 2.0 of the PlayBook is a step towards BlackBerry 10. One of the great BlackBerry features that is missing from the PlayBook is Over-The-Air downloading, OTA. Thus, we must use sideloading to load programs that are not available in App World. RIM has stated the BlackBerry 10 will be coming to PlayBook at some point after it is released and running on the superphones. I personally don’t expect BlackBerry to take away sideloading and OTA, and then give it back in another OS.
What I am saying is that these moves are indicative of a policy change in RIM’s management of BlackBerry devices and their operating systems. One where the apps are kept in RIM’s walled garden, BlackBerry App World, where we no longer have total control over what we want to put on our devices.
Those of us in the developer community and some consumers have managed to partake of apps that RIM has refused into App World as well apps not present in App World for various reasons. One reason that I enjoy the sideloading feature is the ability to quickly write a program for my own use with my PlayBook or Blackberry and simply use it without having to go through App World. Think about themes. Many of us use themes on our BlackBerry handhelds. The level of customization that BlackBerry users enjoy on their devices, while maintaining the security of the device as a whole, will no longer exist if we are only able to put only App World approved programming on BlackBerry devices.
It will be the end of BlackBerry as we’ve known it. No more third-party app stores. No more complete customization. No more loading what you want, when you want it.