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‘A new world of computing’

Posted by arnon_k On October - 8 - 2010

RIM unveils the PlayBook and promises raft of potential

Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of BlackBerry, is banking on its form factor tablet device “PlayBook” to retain its corporate leader crown and is offering an aggressive incentive program and tools to attract developers to its platform, as well as new business opportunities to monetise BlackBerry users more effectively.

This means more “Super Apps” will likely be on the way, with applications more deeply integrated with day-to-day life and boasting unique capabilities to enhance the user experience

“This is one of the most exciting times in our history, as we reveal the BlackBerry PlayBook, the world’s first professional tablet,” said Mike Lazaridis, President and co-CEO of RIM, speaking at the BlackBerry Devcon 2010 in San Francisco. “This device provides an uncompromised web and multimedia experience.”

The device is an ultra-mobile, ultra-thin tablet device for both work and play. Measuring less than half an inch thick and weighing less than a pound, it features a 7″ high-resolution display and comes equipped with a 1GHz dual-core processor and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS which supports true symmetric multiprocessing, enabling true multitasking and a highly-responsive touch screen experience for apps and content services.

“Last year, we took all our experience and focused on the new Tablet OS, which will fully support the new WebWorks Platform, the next-generation Java Virtual Machine and open GL, an incredible support platform for game designers and game players,” said Dan Dodge, CEO of QNX Software Systems, a provider of real time operating system software for embedded design which RIM acquired.

With support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Mobile AIR and HTML-5, the BlackBerry PlayBook provides users with a rich web experience, enabling them to enjoy sites, games and media on the Internet, while allowing Flash developers to use the same existing tools to produce applications which help to open new and more opportunities for developers and content publishers.

“This will enable a new world of computing that you can hold in the palm of your hand,” said Dodge.

He continued that PlayBook offers an amplified view of the BlackBerry smart phone with its larger screen for full documents and secure Bluetooth connection.

They can also use their tablet and smart phone interchangeably without syncing or duplicating data, which is a particularly useful feature for business users who want to leave their laptop behind.

In the meantime, IT departments can deploy the PlayBook to employees without security and manageability concerns that arise when corporate data is stored on other devices.

“There will be no need for enterprises to adopt new software or new data plans, as [the PlayBook] will feature out-of-the box compatibility with over 250,000 enterprise servers,” said Lazaridis.

The device is expected to be available in the United States early next year, with the international rollout beginning in the second quarter. Support for 3G and 4G will be forthcoming.

Ovum analyst Tim Renowden said the PlayBook looks a strong contender against Apple’s iPad, at least among RIM’s core enterprise customers.

RIM’s dominance of the enterprise smart phone market has come under pressure from Apple and a range of Android competitors, and since the iPad’s launch there has been a lot of discussion about the role of tablet devices in enterprise and the adoption of consumer devices by business users.

“The PlayBook is aimed squarely at enterprise users, but RIM has very deliberately included high-end multimedia and game capabilities to attract consumers – and, of course, business users are also consumers,” said Renowden.

“The PlayBook’s big advantage over the iPad for enterprise customers is that many businesses already have BlackBerry smart phones deployed, and are using the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage their connectivity.

“Enterprise IT managers understand the security and device management advantages that BlackBerry has over Apple, and RIM will maintain these advantages with the PlayBook, which is fully compatible with existing BlackBerry services.”

Tyler Lessard, Vice President, Global Alliance and Developer Relations at RIM, told the press briefing that there are various tools to help developers enjoy more flexibility and ease of development as well as expand their potential for monetisation.

Its new BlackBerry WebWorks is a web-based development platform that enables developers to build apps for BlackBerry in HTML-5, CSS and Java Script.

This will help developers build rich, integrated apps in days or even hours using existing skill sets with no Java.

RIM is also working with the open source developer community to access and contribute to the BlackBerry open web application platform and tooling components and share in the evolution of the web platform, as well as co-operating with leading open source JavaScript framework companies DoJo, GitHub, JQuery, Nitobi and Sencha to encourage developers to create web apps with advanced functionality.

The company also provides more tools for developers to achieve monetisation with Payment Service SDK Beta, allowing developers to add payment capabilities to their apps.

This is an Application Programming Interface (APIs) that enables a variety of payment options to make for a more convenient, faster and more secure transaction system when paying for premium and upgraded content.

While RIM will manage all business terms, including relationships with various carriers for billing, the developers will receive a revenue share of 70 percent.

Alongside that, RIM will also partner with Webtrends to launch the free BlackBerry Analytics Service early next year, to help developers gain a deep insight into how customers are using their apps, such as the frequency of use, carrier network, country, screens accessed and features used, so they may evolve their apps in ways that will drive loyalty, increase use, and lead to new revenue streams and increased monetisation.

The company will also provide an advertising service to give developers the ability to display ads in their applications with only a few lines of code.

This should create new monetisation opportunities for BlackBerry developers by simplifying the integration of advertising. Developers will receive 60 percent of the advertising revenue, with the remaining 40 percent going to RIM and the advertising host network.

Sameer Sondhi, Senior Director, Business Development, at xAD Inc, the largest local mobile advertising network in the US, said the increasing number of smart phone users is attracting advertisers, especially in the local search market, in which advertisers can sponsor search results.

The global mobile advertising is a growth market worth $3-4 billion (90.5-120 billion baht) a year and is expected to reach $15 billion (452 billion baht) by 2014.

Lessard continued that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will for the first time be open to third-party applications, giving developers the tools to build apps that take advantage of the social aspects of the popular BBM service.

“Access to BBM services, with over 28 million users, from within apps will revolutionise gaming, enhance multimedia experiences, and add a new dimension to location-based applications,” he said.

Christopher Smith, senior director at RIM, added: “The BBM Social Platform will help developers leverage the power of BBM in their own applications through social and community interactions, as well as increase discoverability of their applications through peer communications and referrals and viral marketing through a trusted users network.”

Developers will be able to integrate various functions of the BBM service into their applications, including chat, content sharing and invitations.

For example, users will be able to invite their BBM friends to join them in a game and then chat with while the game is being played.

Martyn Mallick, Senior Director, Business Development Strategic Alliances, at RIM said: “In the next six to 12 months, the company will leverage technology from Cellmania, which its acquired in August, to make its existing AppWorld 2.0 aid not only the ease of discovering applications and the convenience of buying merchandise, but also the system will bundle a marketing promotion package so that users may buy two games and get one free, or one discounted.”

Moreover, until the end of this year, developers can waive the submission fee to AppWorld, which will save them $200 (6,030 baht) per 10 applications.

Currently, there are more than 10,000 applications in AppWorld for a total of more than 35 million downloads.

“In the past 60 days, RIM has put lot of effort into BlackBerry 6.0, such as advertising, analytic and payment services, including its WebWorks platform, new tablet OS and AppWorld, to support the new PlayBook, which will open more multi-platform opportunities to developers,” said Mallick.

Mike Kirkup, RIM’s Director of Development Relations, said the company will promote more and more “Super Apps” which are defined as apps that deliver the most engaging experiences possible, for BlackBerry users and leverage the unique capabilities the BlackBerry platform brings in terms of experience, tight navigation with native apps, a pro-active and notification-driven OS, highly contextualised social aspects and an always-connected system designed for efficiency.

The Super App Challenge is one way to boost this Super App concept, by opening a developers’ competition at regional level across North America, Latin America and the Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia-Pacific regions.

Four hundred Regional Selections have been announced so far at Devcon, and one winner from each region will be selected next month.

“This is the first time that we have run the challenge at regional level,” said Kirkup.

“We would like to promote the winners as local heroes to make them recognised and to help them market their applications on this platform.”

RIM will also set out on a South East Asia training developer road show to boost interest in creating local applications.

In the past 12 months, 100,000 new app developers have registered with RIM, taking the global total to 300,000.

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