Final Thoughts from BlackBerry DevCon 2011

BlackBerry’s annual developer conference was many things to many people, so it probably surprises no one that such a broad spectrum of heavily editorialized articles have been published on RIM over the past week.Much smaller than the previous BlackBerry DevCon’s Polar has attended, there was a definite sense of urgency in RIM’s messaging that limitations developers have been raising for years are being addressed in a meaningful way by the company.  Why should the average consumer care?  Well, because customer delight is a result of developer delight.

A significant amount of time was spent talking about the gaming possibilities with BlackBerry devices and the new BBX operating system.  Presumably, this was selling the “rally car” so that it becomes easier to sell the “sedan”.  The buzz at the conference was optimistic, even though this type of presentation was a far departure from the usual at this conference.

Though there was a great reception for developer tools and access to new BlackBerry services, there was also disappointment felt by developers I spoke to around three main themes:

Dates: there is a huge amount of promise in BBX, but without a clear indication of when the product will be shipped, developers and consumers are increasingly unable to plan and support the next generation of BlackBerry devices.  In light of that, it becomes an easier case to build for competing platforms that are live in market with significant and growing market traction.

Enterprise email on PlayBook: a few of the RIM folks made mention that this year’s event was heavily skewed to consumer app development, and I think most were refreshed by the difference in presentations.  That said, PlayBook still has the highest likelihood of being perceived as distinct if it can deliver a solid email experience, something the other tablets are doing at a mediocre level at best.  It also gives the device a foothold back into RIM’s traditional market: enterprise users.

Cellular version of the PlayBook: most of the stats around tablet usage show a heavy skew to using the device in-home or at work, where wifi is readily available. That said, forcing on-the-go connectivity only through BlackBerry devices ignores the vast market of users that have chosen another smartphone device.  RIM currently owns the pocket-size tablet market, but competing manufacturers are sure to enter the fray this year or early 2012.

Though questions of RIM’s long-term success as a mobile platform will persist, Polar is still committed to delivering leading mobile content experiences on BlackBerry devices for our 4th straight year.

In fact, Polar’s CTO, Michael Russo (@mjrusso), presented our html5 mobile solution for smartphones and tablets, with a follow-up workshop on how to make them work closer together.  He showed two apps: CFL Mobile for PlayBook (download here), and Toronto Maple Leafs Mobile for BlackBerry smartphones (download here).

I would encourage you downloaded these apps and take a look at them for yourself.