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Blackberry App Store launches...Elsewhere

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry phones, has finally launched BlackBerry App World, which is a one-stop shop for add-on BlackBerry applications. While third-party programs have been available for BlackBerrys from many sources, they are following in Apple's footsteps by creating and operating a central store. Among the leaders in the "smart" phone industry, RIM is the last player to roll out a store like this.

On the one hand you wonder what took BlackBerry so long. But you have to realize that BlackBerry has a huge installed base of corporate users. Many corporate IT departments have long preferred the BlackBerry precisely because downloads and add-on applications were limited. The corporate mentality is the fewer the downloads then the fewer the number of things that can go wrong and require valuable technical support time.

But, with every other phone vendor adding these profitable services, RIM has joined in. However, they are really just dipping their toes in the water. The name, BlackBerry App World, might make you think it is available everywhere in the world - but this first release is only available to BlackBerry users in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. A full international version won't be available until the Fall of 2009. Another limitation is that you must have BlackBerry smartphone operating system 4.2 or higher and a trackball or SurePress touch screen.

BlackBerry App World is free and there are a few free applications available, but most of the applications are for sale.  The next big limitation is that payment can only be made via eBay's PayPal payment service - no credit cards and no billing to your cell phone carrier. RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said the company is looking to strike deals with wireless carriers so that shoppers can charge their purchases to their phone bill instead of using PayPal.

Initially the top applications downloaded by BlackBerry users are the free ones, including news browser Viigo, music service Shazam and a Facebook program.  While Apple's most popular sellers are the 99 cent and $1.99 applications, RIM applications appear to start at $2.99.

It will be interesting to see how many BlackBerry users will download the application, enter the PayPal information and actually purchase applications. The free applications will keep many users happy - but they won't add to RIM's bottom line.

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