I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine last week and it struck a chord. One of the decisions BlackBerry made with the PlayBook and then BlackBerry 10 was to limit app installs to BlackBerry World and remove the OTA (Over the Air) browser installation method BlackBerry had supported for years. At the time BlackBerry claimed they made this change due to developers requesting a single app store. At the time this was not a bad idea and might not have been such a pain point if BlackBerry had greatly improved the feature set of BlackBerry World. Sadly that never happened and BlackBerry 10 users and developers now sit in a situation where we had more features and flexibility on BlackBerry’s legacy platform than we have now.
It has been over 2 years since the PlayBook first launched killing off BlackBerry Over The Air downloads on the QNX platform. So far this has forced us to sacrifice the following features that we either had on BlackBerry’s legacy platform or through third party app stores like Mobihand:
- No Coupon codes – This seems to be coming some time in the future but we had this on Mobihand YEARS ago.
- No EASY way for developers or even BlackBerry to beta test software – Forcing users to sideload apps (even official ones like BBM Channels)
- No Gift Cards or ability to send a BlackBerry World gift
- Very limited descriptions for apps – They cannot even use bullet points
- Low resolution screenshots
- No ability to embed rich content like video trailers of the app
- Useless review system that is constantly gamed by certain shady developers and does not allow developers to respond and resolve reviews.
- No recommendation system – Even something as simple as similar apps or apps that other users installed that also have an app.
- Snail paced rollout system that takes over a day for all users to get an update
- Ridiculously long approval process that can take up to weeks
- No visible change log unless you already have the app installed
- the list goes on…
Most of these issues could easily be solved by the BlackBerry World development team. Sadly it has been years and we are only just barely starting to scratch the surface of what BlackBerry 7 and Mobihand were able to do ages ago. These are not unreasonable requests and I am absolutely shocked that it has taken BlackBerry so long to implement something as simple as coupon codes. We are not talking about innovative features. These are features that are considered elementary on any other app store.
That is why I propose an interim solution until the BlackBerry World team gets their house in order. BlackBerry should allow for over the air downloads on BlackBerry 10. This should include the ability to do an OTA install of both BlackBerry 10 BAR files AND Android APK files. While I realize this does open up a security risk this is no different than what users are already doing by mass sideloading applications. BlackBerry even advocates a form of sideloading for official apps like BBM Channels which makes me wonder if we cannot just skip the convoluted step altogether.
In one fell swoop BlackBerry could solve quite a bit of the “App Gap” on BlackBerry 10 by opening up what is now limited to users who have gone through the pain of sideloading an app. We already know that it is VERY easy for BlackBerry to be able to allow OTA application installation from a technical standpoint since we already have apps like LocalBar that simply fool BlackBerry 10 into thinking the app was sideloaded. I realize that this may lead to piracy but I have heard quite a few solutions proposed by devs that would be relatively easy to implement.
Personally I would rather BlackBerry World team just started kicking ass and taking names but so far they have been one of the worst offenders when it comes to holding back the capabilities of BlackBerry 10. That is why I propose BlackBerry open up OTA downloads and bypass what I consider to be a horrible excuse for an app store in 2013.
What do you think?