Well, right away, “App World” doesn’t win any points in the name category. It sounds like a bargain basement retailer of remainder App Store stock. What it actually is, though, is BlackBerry’s new application store, the details of which were just unveiled last night. Perhaps not coincidentally, they announced their official plans on the same day the iPhone Developer’s SDK celebrates its one-year anniversary.
So should Apple take warning and batten down the hatches? You would think that the biggest fish in the smartphone pond getting into the direct download application game would be enough to rattle anyone. Let’s look at the details and see if there isn’t something to be afraid of.
Devices and Locations
Device support for App World will extend only to those handsets running BlackBerry OS 4.2 or higher, with either a trackball or the Storm’s touchscreen. The application portal will also initially be available only in the U.S. and Canada, and will support only English at launch, although plans to add other languages are in place.
Broad device support is a big win for BlackBerry, since their apps will then be available to a wider market of buyers using any recent BlackBerry hardware. Apple’s iPhone sales are growing, but it’s hard to compete in turns of market coverage when your opponent is giving away Pearls and Curves at the low end of the spectrum. The many devices advantage will be initially hurt by the lack of international support, but BlackBerry is probably ready to roll that out pretty quickly as long as the initial launch proves profitable. I don’t think it’s a “can’t do” thing, more like a “won’t do” until we’re sure it’ll make us money.
A big downside of App World is that BlackBerry users will only be able to download as many apps as fit in internal memory, which on most BlackBerry devices, is paltry. 256MB in the new BlackBerry Curve 8900. You can’t even buy a 256MB flash drive anymore, can you? It’s a problem G1 owners ran into, and it’ll be a problem for BlackBerry, too. Apps can’t be installed to memory cards, in case you were wondering. Apple may get knocked occasionally for lacking expandable memory on their iPhone, but at least the ample space they do provide is usable.
BlackBerry is getting a lot of attention for their pricing structure, which is laid out nicely over at our sister site jkOnTheRun. The key figure there is the starting price of $2.99. That means a serious lack of 99 cent fart and noisemaking apps. Look at the Top 25 Paid Apps list on your iPhone or iPod touch, if you have one. How many of those apps cost 99 cents? Say what you will about Apple’s pricing, it’s a big reason for the success of their model.
On the other hand, BlackBerry’s $2.99 entry point will hopefully discourage a lot of the throwaway apps that clutter up Apple’s store. They know that they still cater mostly to enterprise customers, and I’m sure they want to keep the selection geared towards that side of things, or at least towards the kind of apps that professionals can take home with them and use after work…which is unlikely to be a $2.99 shotgun noise simulator.
Games will probably end up being the most significant measure of comparison in terms of revenue generation, since they represent so many of Apple’s top sellers. I don’t see BlackBerry going for a “Funnest BlackBerry Ever” angle, or trying to compete with the DS and PSP, but stranger things have happened. More likely they’re looking to offer utilities as an incentive to sell handsets, and not trying to mimic the success of the App Store as a serious revenue-generating venture.
So in the end, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to pit the two head-to-head against each other, unless BlackBerry has some unexpected hardware moves up its sleeve in the future that put it on par with the iPhone as an entertainment and gaming device. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t think App World will be able to take the wind out of the App Store’ sails.