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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.

42 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Most consumers won’t care, they simply won’t. Most don’t eve know how to sideload.

    It’s rather that RIM is repeatedly crapping on what they do differently (that’s good) from other companies…

    They had a thriving theme-ing community, they destroyed that completely… They have an active sideloading community, they might kill that too… They have many form factors, they will probably kill that as well (granted this causes fragmentation, but there’s no way around that)… They probably won’t even have a qwerty keyboard BB10 phone out of the gate, just like everyone else…

    So in essence a lot of what RIM offers that is different and good is being dropped…

    • My thoughts on the themes (and I was a theme developer back with 4.5 and 5.0…

      I don’t blame RIM for not focusing on them. True, it might have been the liquid graphics the broke theme builder, but if you were RIM, would you want people at home making money off of themes on a device that you made? And not sharing the profit? I’m not talking about the devs that charge around $3, but those that charge $6+ for a theme. Wow. And…we pay it. Rim has put out themes, including OS7 themes for free in the App World….so you really think TB7 isn’t around??

      • I have no problem sharing the wealth with RIM, but when they refuse themes because it has an Android icon, under a single store scenario, we’re both SOL. Also having no way to load custom apps under the no OTA/sideload scenario under BB10 makes things equally difficult.

        I’m just trying to make BlackBerry users aware of the possibilities in this one scenario I’m addressing.

        • Oh I agree. And I’m not siding with RIM on the themes, I just don’t think TB7 was an accident. That’s all I was saying. I beta test for loads of app and theme devs, so it not being there is going to hamper my happiness.

      • A lot of theme sales are done through Appworld, which now is the primary market for selling. So they do actually make money off of theme sales.

        • Yes, now it is. But six months ago it was through Mobihand. I have over 250 apps and themes through them.

          • Also looking forward, if apps cannot be distributed by other channels at all on BB10/PB, they would always make money on themes.

            But it’s too late for that now, they killed theme-ing and it wouldn’t come back full force even if they release a theme builder now. A lot of theme developers have left the platform for good.

            So now, they might as well drop theme-ing entirely… But it is their own fault.

  2. Everyone wants to put the blame on RIM for everything. Blame Apple that RIM has to focus more on the enterprise. Blame the stupid iSheep for being flipping Retarded, but don’t blame RIM for focusing on what they have to. They never had enough money to go into the consumer market so the author needs to stop blaming RIM!

    • RIM had buckets of money to get into the consumer market… And they spent it too.

      Even if they didn’t, consumer interests are now driving enterprise decisions, which is stupid, but happening regardless.

      Also one of the areas they needed to improve upon for the ENTERPRISE market they did not (particularly browser experience). Enterprise customers were complaining about this a lot and it didn’t improve anywhere close to fast enough.

      • Here we go blaming RIM Again… Have you ever thought it was a platform problem??? Didnt you hear that it was pretty much impossible to incorporate a open standard browsing experience on a closed Java Platform.

        Go cry somewhere else cause as far as I’m concerned Apple couldn’t post any figures until they bought NeXt, which was late! You possibly can’t sit here and say that BlackBerry is dead and so on and so forth because A: Apple and Android at the beginning didn’t have any Apps and B: If RIM, QNX and TAT along with Torch can make a slick user interface along with a awesome browsing expereince; Apple will die! It’s OS is limited!

        • wasn’t going to address your first comment because it wasn’t even relevant to my opinion piece. My piece isn’t a “hate on RIM” post or even a “BlackBerry is doomed!” piece. I simply felt that BlackBerry users should consider 1 scenario that I feel is possible based upon observations of the current PlayBook OS and the future BB10 OS.

          I’m not even going to say that this scenario where you can’t load apps (THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!!) or themes outside of App World will come true. I really hope it doesn’t. I love the BlackBerry system and I can’t live without the Bold keyboard. But I think that everyone should know about the possibilities so that RIM realizes that this is out of the question for us as consumers.

          • You have to look inside the Enterprise piece… Will it be OK for people within a organization to load third party apps that could ruin the Enterprise?

        • You really hear what you want to hear… No where did I state that RIM was dead.

  3. As a developer, let me say that having no more third-party app stores is nothing but a good thing.

    Even without considering piracy, simplifying the app adding experience to just a single on-device store is a very welcome improvement.

    • Right now, most users get their apps from Appworld (single store), so this wouldn’t simplify the “app adding experience”.

      • It would in the sense that it keeps all apps in a single store. You never want the explanation of how to do something to include adding apps to the device by any means besides AppWorld.

        On Android the commonly accepted way to get things done includes bouncing around to different stores and/or adding .apk files directly. This doesn’t make a good user experience for users or developers.

  4. I’m on the fence. I haven’t sideloaded a premium app. I’ve stuck to the free ones. And I don’t see what’s wrong with it. I’m not one that cares to have Netflix or Skype, but games like Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends, Kindle….those should be on the Playbook. Does it bother me to use the Android Player? Sometimes, especially when you have to reboot to get it to work right.

    But…..RIM. This is on them. Why would you even put the Android Player on the Playbook if you didn’t expect developers to not develop for it. Instead, they are just porting, or making the .apk file accessible. So if you can do that and be done, then you can’t expect them to make a special Playbook version. Why pay and dedicate a team to a platform if they can say, “we’ll save money, port or release the .apk”

    I do think that App World needs to create and entry that tells if an app is a port and will use the Android Player. Always good to know what you are buying.

    • I think they dug themselves a hole they can’t get out of on this issue…

      1) They offer a distinction between native vs non native. Non native develops a stigma because some ports have major issues that cause system wide problems, and most converted apps will become a scapegoat as a result. People will always look for non-ported apps first…

      2) They don’t offer a distinction. Even if people only have large problems with a few apps, it brings down the AP and causes largescale playbook usage problems. People will cry out against converted apps in general anyways. (this is already happening)

      So then why do people want to publish converted apps in either case if they will have a stigma that native won’t… For some apps, developers might not care. But for others, I doubt they want the bad publicity and support requests. It’s easier to just avoid the whole thing.

  5. For me, the sideloading feature is not important; I’d rather have that app lready available to download in app World. RIMM has already stated that there will be month keryboard on the BB10 at launch, because they need a full touchscreen to take advantage of the swipe features. Again, this does not mattter as long as the virtual keyboard is fantastic and the physical keyboard version arrives in a timely mannner. For BB10 to be a success, they must integrate all the things that make BlackBerry great (keyboard/shortcuts, trackpad, convienance keys, messaging, multitasking, integration with other apps and combine it with QNX power and

    Sidloading, for me doesn’t matter as lomg as they include the apps on app world.

  6. As a consumer I can say that we wouldn’t care IF IF IF RIM would get the apps we want into App world.

    I have 4 sideloaded apps on my playbook. They are the four I use most. Specifically they are the New York TImes App, The Financial TImes App, The Economist App, and the Kindle App.

    What you will notice is that for each of these apps, I pay the firms behind them for content. That’s right, because I have the App on my Playbook I purchase subscriptions or books from each of the companies behind them.

    Now ask, how in thw world is it that RIM is unable to get those companies from putting their apps into App World when they know (at zero cost to them – after all they didn’t modify the apps on my Playbook) they can generate money.

    I am only left to think that RIM’s screwed up legal policies simply make it not worthwhile for firms to engage with RIM to port the apps. That’s pretty pathetic.

    Honestly RIM should be on the phone with the NYT to say we’ve ported the app over for you and are ready to put it up in App World, can we fax over a legal for that says RIM takes on all liability associated with the App you have none just sign it and start making money from people that will subscribe to you content because of the app you’ve already written, you do nothing but sign.

    And yet they can’t get it done……

  7. This issue is about enforcing draconian control over the software distribution channel. It is about losing the freedom to distribute your app as you see fit. It is about submitting to the whims of the platform vendor, and being willing to take the fall if they don’t like you for any reason.

    The fact that so many people are accepting of this, or apologetic towards the platform vendor, downright disgusts me. If you take any of these discussions, replace “Apple” or “RIM” with “Microsoft” and change the platform in question from a mobile device to a “desktop PC”, just think about how many people would start screaming for blood.

    Many years ago, Microsoft tended to make their offering the “default choice” on their platform. They didn’t necessarily lock out competitors. They just preferenced their own offering, so most consumers used it because it was good enough. This alone caused plenty of lawsuits and havoc. Now imagine if they outright forbid the sale and installation of any software that competed with theirs. How would you feel then?

    • This would make it easier to sell apps on Windows.

      In fact Microsoft is doing this with their phone, and the xbox, and is making the platform much more attractive, from my position.

  8. If you pulled a TL;DR: If RIM removes sideloading, and they have already removed OTA from the OS, why would they add either back in BB10? This shows a trend towards an Apple-like “walled garden only scenario.” No more custom themes or apps unless they are App World approved or through BES/Mobile Fusion. No more absolute consumer customization.

  9. Testing for a devs, I see this as a huge negative for those of us with the knowledge to sideload and the devs who like testers input on their apps before releasing to App World and getting negative reviews. The average consumer would rather leave bad reviews instead of contacting the dev. I agree that the average consumer will not care. If the devs of Android apps really cared they would just port, then some of us wouldn’t have to sideload apps/games. Words With Friends ad supported plays very well on the PlayBook. Why not just port it and provide it for us in App World? I do love my BlackBerry and my PlayBook. I love that I can change the look and that i can put what i want on either of my devices without necessarily going through App World. App world is good but so is letting sideloading continue.

  10. There are lot of factors that have RIM in its death spiral… but I don’t see this as one of them.

  11. Not good at all, but Android apps are pirated on their own platforms and google is not trying hard enough to stop it….why RIM is doing the developers a favor?
    2 options here:
    1. Don’t update your PLayBook with the new OS
    2. We will come out a solutions to root the PB and side load the apps.
    Just calm down

  12. I agree with this article my article aillor joined this one. They want a closed OS like Apple … They put you to convert your slideload the Android apps and even RIM playbook offers 16GB then removing one of the functions that sells the playbook. Or will RIM??

  13. Don’t worry, there will still be ways to deploy your OWN app or theme to your OWN device. I’m sure that developers will also be able to distribute beta versions of their apps to testers.

    You just won’t be able to sideload an app that was never inteded to be sideloaded, i.e. a pirated app or an Android app that was not submitted by its legit author but just repackaged and distributed (=copied) by someone else. Which in my book is the same thing as piracy, whether it’s a free app or not.

    So RIM has decided to plug the hole.

    This is good for us developers, because it protects our IP from being ripped off, protects our copyright and allows us to make a bit of money so we can justify creating more and better apps.

    It’s good for 95% of users who don’t know or care what sideloading is, because it makes the platform more secure, stable & trustworthy.

    It’s good for companies because they know that their corporate documents are safe and under their control, and that the apps running on the device have been vetted and the developers are accountable.

    It’s good for RIM because it underscores their commitment to security and stability.

    Plus, anything that’s good for one of these groups is automatically good for the others – more devs = better apps = happier users = better for RIM = more devs = etc etc …

    It’s only a small minority of very vocal users who see sideloading as a “right”, despite it being:

    a) an abuse of a development facility that was never intended, promised or supported for consumer use, and

    b) in violation of copyright law, or at the very least terms of use of the app that is being sideloaded, the App World vendor agreement, the Google Play terms of use and so on.

    I think it makes PERFECT sense that RIM is restricting sideloading to its intended purpose, and I for one encourage them to do so.

    • It’s only detrimental if you planned on releasing on the PB, which it seems a large portion are not….

      Also this has no appreciable impact on stability. I can write a valid, signed app that will crash your PB to the ground and get it approved in a couple days… RIM never checks off app stability as a requirement for submissions.

  14. This is so ironic coming from RIM. They’ve never really cared about piracy. They’ve even been promoting it for a year by giving anybody with a PlayBook full access to the source code of all the apps installed via Appworld.
    The walled garden approach is purely a money making one. You can find shady apps in iTunes. It’s been proven over and over again.
    Just make side-loading an option which can be controlled via a Mobile Fusion policy or make it a dev only feature by making sure side-loading is only allowed for people with debug tokens, which can be traced back to the original developer.
    Appworld will never be ready on time if they decide to include beta channels in there. It’s already so far behind the other stores in terms of features.

  15. RIM removes side loading = RIP RIM

    I’m telling u now. They are finished.

    Leave side loading alone!!

    This one the only feature many users loved about the PlayBook no waiting for some slow poke app to port a Droid app to PB.

    RIM u do this, it’s over.

  16. Why don’t all of you chill and check out or, cause Alec Saunders clarified that sideloading isn’t going anywhere…

  17. Sideloading is just cool. Firstly because a lot of basic and FREE app’s aren’t present in the AppMarket or when present not always updated.
    Secondly because sideloading allows to quickly add/test/remove apps without having the endlessly list of ‘uninstalled application’ growing… really sucks!

    If sideloading is removed, even for users, it will just result in less playbook sold.

  18. interfaSys said — “Exactly. Google is not doing anything, why should RIM?”

    I don’t understand this comment when, on any other day, most Blackberry users would be touting Blackberry’s superior security as a major plus over other platforms. Google’s App Market is notoriously filled with glitchy, poorly-built apps that aren’t screened closely enough for malware and other issues. Why would RIM want to follow in those footsteps?!?

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