Late last week, RIM released their Q4 2012 revenue reports, and the results were extremely disappointing, to say the least. Multiple senior-level executives parted ways, along with one with the original faces of the BlackBerry brand itself - Jim Balsillie. As the news of RIM's apparent pending doom spread throughout the blogosphere, I couldn't help but wonder if this was really the beginning (or middle, depending on your level of cynicism) of the end for the Canadian tech giant. While most critics have focused on BlackBerry's revenue numbers and the downward consumer trends, there has barely been any news on what developers think of BlackBerry.
To start, both BlackBerry DevCon Europe and all the sessions at BlackBerry's ADC at Mobile World Congress were completely sold out, but was this simply due to the schwag being given away at the front door?
Surprisingly, the answer was no.
While talking to attendees at DevCon Europe, we noticed an unusual (in a good way) amount of optimism in the platform, one that hadn't been seen in a while. Many of the developers there had BlackBerry devices and were seeing some success in using this platform to develop and were anxious to see what the new QNX platform would offer. Angus Fox, CEO of Multizone mentioned that enterprise security and lack of churn through inability to change is a great strength for RIM and he sees iOS and BlackBerry as the two major platforms with money to be made. He did add that Mutlizone does work in the Public Sector and may not represent the norm, but felt heavily that BlackBerry is far from the grave despite the negative press.
The same vibe cannot be said for North American developers, as more and more developers turned their focus away from BlackBerry. Developing for iOS/Android, and then maybe Windows Phone seems to be the consensus opinion. Former Facebook Developer and Current CEO of Path Dave Morin recently emphasized that Path was "actively not developing for BlackBerry". Morin is a key influencer in Silicon Valley, and there is no doubt his words will resonate with developers everywhere.
Furthermore, developers are tired of waiting for BB10 to finally arrive. None of the current BlackBerry mobile devices on the market today will support the upcoming platform and while the PlayBook will support BB10, it is a different form factor than smartphones, making it highly difficult for usability testing. Delaying releases has become somewhat of a bad habit for RIM (see: Kindle, BBM on PlayBook), and this has to be stopped. Each day that BB10 isn't released is a day where the platform loses more developers, and this is without any guarantees that BB10 is an amazing platform for consumers and developers alike. An additional note to the BB10 platform is that it will be dropping native java support in favor of QNX's new tools, which did not resonate particularly well with the developers we spoke with.
BB10 has started to move, with alpha prototypes being given out at their BlackBerry 10 Jam (no correlation with WIPJam) conference in Florida next month. The developer's feedback of the platform from the conference will really be extremely interesting to watch. If they can continue to excel on enterprise security, move faster on BB10, and ride on the optimism of developers in Europe, they may rise once again, but make no mistake, they are riding on razor thin lines.