BlackBerry, Wavefront encourage local developers to seize opportunity created by app vacuum
By Nelson Bennett, Tuesday March 26, 2013
BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone has a lot going for it – a speedy browser, a superb keyboard and a new perimeter that allows business users to separate their personal and work spaces.
And BlackBerry in general has enduring loyalty among businessmen and women.
What BlackBerry doesn’t have is a lot of apps. Eighty thousand might sound like a lot, but it’s about 10% of apps developed for both Apple (Nasdaq:APPL) or Android devices.
With the survival of the Waterloo-based company in question, developers have been reluctant to build apps for BlackBerry devices, and there are still some notable holdouts by Instagram and Netflix, which have no plans to create native BlackBerry apps.
But BlackBerry’s new operating system and phones – the touchscreen Z10 and soon-to-be-released keyboard-based Q10 – appear to be pulling the company back from the brink. (An unnamed partner this month placed an order for one million BlackBerry 10 phones, and last week the company’s stock jumped 6% when Morgan Stanley changed its rating of the company’s stock from “sell” to “buy”.)
BlackBerry’s dearth of apps is creating new opportunities for Vancouver developers.
“It’s almost like the wild, wild west gold rush days,” said Tom Anderson, senior BlackBerry developer “evangelist,” told Business in Vancouver last week at a day-long BlackBerry 10 Jam coding workshop, co-hosted by Wavefront.
“We’ve got a large installed base – and growing every day – of Z10 users, and we’ve got them looking for applications in our application store. So you’ve got an opportunity to be a big fish out there on BlackBerry.”
More than 30 local developers took in last week’s BlackBerry 10 Jam workshop.
They ranged from 15-year-old Christopher Bolton, who is working on his second BlackBerry app (see next week’s BIV “How I did it”), to developers at Global Relay, one of Vancouver’s biggest software companies.
BlackBerry also now has a development centre at Wavefront, where app developers can get help from BlackBerry “evangelists” to help them get to market quicker, either with new enterprise apps designed specifically for BlackBerry, or Android apps, which are easily moved over.
How to make money developing apps
Most mobile apps don’t make money. According to a study by App Promo last year, 50% of app developers did not make enough money on their mobile apps to break even.
And though there may be more potential buyers in the Apple and Android stores, it’s also a more crowded space.
That may be one of the reasons that BlackBerry is the most profitable platform for mobile app development: there is less “noise,” and BlackBerry users are desperate for any new apps that become available.
A Vision Mobile study last year found that the BlackBerry platform is the most profitable for app developers.
The study found that the average monthly revenue from a BlackBerry app was $3,853, compared with $3,693 for Apple’s iOS, $2,735 for Android and $1,234 for Windows.
The study also found BlackBerry apps cheaper to make.
The average BB app cost $15,181 to get to market, according to the study, whereas the typical iOS app cost $27,463; Android cost $22,637.
“There’s less noise on the BlackBerry app marketplace right now, and you have a business savvy audience, where BlackBerry users are more likely to pay for apps,” said Tiffany Chester, director of marketing for Wavefront.
“Findability is less of an issue on BlackBerry’s platform. To me that’s an opportunity for developers, particularly with an audience who is more apt to actually pay for your download.”
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