RIM Looks to Improve App Store, Purchases Cellmania


Research In Motion (s rimm) has purchased Cellmania, a mobile storefront company, for an undisclosed amount, according to Cellmania’s home page. The company, which in 2000 raised $13 million in second-round funding, provides back-end solutions to mobile app ecosystems for handling digital-rights management, software distribution, and carrier billing integration. The purchase of Cellmania follows RIM’s debut of its new App World 2.0 store, which officially launched last week with various improvements and changes.

Athough BlackBerry devices have generally outsold those of Android (s goog) and iOS (s aapl) for the past several years (only recently have more Android handsets than BlackBerry phones sold than the U.S.), RIM’s software store has fallen short by comparison in terms of developer traction, the number of available applications and ease of store navigation. When it initially launched in March 2009, Om called the store “good enough,” but it hasn’t exhibited the stellar growth of competitors.

The new App World 2.0 shows improvements — such as QR code support for easier downloads and better organization — but it also emphasizes the potential limitations RIM faces by trying to develop its own mobile app ecosystem. Put another way: RIM is better off acquiring the expertise of Cellmania, which has over a decade of experience, in order to give App World another jump start.

Indeed, Cellmania currently provides mobile solutions for other platforms such as Android, the most recent offering being a home screen content widget. The company says it will continue to support other customers, but I don’t expect many future solutions for RIM’s competitors. Cellmania also has carrier-specific partners — Virgin Mobile USA selected Cellmania’s mobile storefront in March — which could help RIM further expand carrier relationships in terms of BlackBerry apps and carrier billing.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): To Win In the Mobile Market, Focus On Consumer


DJ Chang, Cupertino, CA

Rather than the user experience, it’s more likely that this is a strategic shift for RIM. Managing the app stores for carriers gives them a device and an appstore to maintain the distribution partnership.

If RIM wants more developers, they need to drop their submission restrictions; and cut off the agreements that they have with third-party app stores. Neither are likely events.

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