There’s a reason why RIM (s rimm) unveiled its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet at a developer event; it’s because the device is the company’s best shot at greatly expanding its developer base well beyond the 300,000 or so developers it now has. By adding a new operating system in the BlackBerry Tablet OS, built atop the recently acquired QNX technology, RIM has a new and extremely powerful way to reach out to the new king makers in the mobile ecosystem.
Some, including my colleague James Kendrick, have wondered if a two-platform strategy would weigh down RIM and just add more confusion for developers, forcing them to choose which OS to write for. But in listening to QNX and RIM executives talk about the PlayBook, they see the underlying OS as a way to court way more coders than they ever have before without forcing anyone to choose.
The architecture offers a lot of openness but also extreme stability because many of the processes are protected from each other and aren’t allowed to threaten the operations of the OS. What this all boils down to is an open invitation for developers to start building more apps for RIM. Right now, there’s a somewhat paltry number of BlackBerry App World apps (just 10,000) compared to the Apple App Store (250,000+) and Android Market (estimated 100,000+). Now developers have a modern and powerful OS that offers many ways to write apps for it.
Whether they respond is another matter. They’ll want to see how it performs, and what the business prospects are. By the time PlayBook launches, the iPad (S AAPL) and other Android tablets will have even more momentum and will be even bigger draws for developers. I talked to several developers at BlackBerry DevCon, and they told me they’re really excited about the power and versatility of the new operating system and see it as a refreshing turning point for RIM. The prevailing mantra these days claims RIM will suffer a long slide, but this modern, new Tablet operating system offers the company the best hope to engage new developers, and ultimately set a new course for its entire lineup.
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