Event: Blackberry Developer Day Review

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The Blackberry Developer Day was held yesterday at the Art Sawa gallery in Dubai, UAE and for those of you that couldn’t make it or follow our live coverage on Twitter the event went well, attendance was good, the RIM team on site was friendly and the information presented was useful for developers.

The main presentation was given by Sanyu Kiruluta the Team Lead Developer Relations for the EMEA region at RIM, I have to be honest she was faced with a tough crowd she cracked a couple of jokes at the beginning to break the ice and everybody was dead silent I guess they didn’t appreciate the humor! But as the day moved along the crowd was more into it and there was a good number of developers that fielded a number of questions to the speakers.

So what was discussed?

(Before moving on please note that the times below are approximated, since there were breaks that aren’t mentioned below.)

10 am – 11 am: Emirates Group members discussing that mobile apps are the future. And  they are working internally on developing their own apps, from the hundreds of developers available at the group they have 30 developers working on apps on there own time. They developed 5 apps and a Blackberry app store confined only to the Emirates Group.

11 am – 12 pm: Sanyu Kiruluta takes the stage and she starts off with Blackberry’s numbers and figures; there are 55 Million active BB users worldwide. Over 2 Million apps are downloaded daily worldwide from the appworld. Then she moved on to Operating Systems most used, turns out that OS 5.0 is used by 46% of the BB users and it should be considered the base platform for any developer. Sanyu also discussed OS 6.0 and 6.1 stating that OS 6.0 has a 1D and 2D barcode scanner and OS 6.1 it will have a magnetometer as well as a digital compass API.

Developers were advised on developing apps that were efficient and made users lives easier. Users didn’t care how an app works as long as it did with the most level of convenience. Sanyu also explained that BB users are very task minded so that would definitely have to be taken into consideration when designing an app.

12 pm – 1 pm: After returning from a short break Sanyu continued on discussing how developers could utilize themes, she mentioned that there are a great number of developers that made a fortune on developing themes  alone and not apps. She also mentioned that local and cultural themes work very well, but it was stressed that Blackberry is very big on copyright infringement laws so the content in any theme/app has to be rightfully yours.

Afterwards Sanyu moved on to discuss the much anticipated playbook, she didn’t have one to display so she had to resort to a video of the playbook in action. (Even though later on in the event a playbook showed up out of nowhere and it was even covered on TV you can see the video here on our Facebook page.)

The Launch date of the playbook is still up in the air maybe Q1 – Q2 worldwide and it will support Adobe Air and flash players. Of course they mentioned that every single time they had the chance.

Blackberry announced that any developer that develops, submits an application and it gets approved by March 15th, 2011 Blackberry will send them a FREE playbook, this offer is available worldwide, however the application has to be approved and accepted by Blackberry and you only get one playbook regardless of the number of applications that get accepted, not one per application.

Afterwards the discussion was moved to cover super apps these are apps that are always connected, integrated, social and contextualized. A good example of a super app was demonstrated with an app called Navita which translates content to any language, the app is integrated and can access your emails and can translate the content with a click of a button, there’s no need to copy paste and fuss around with different pages or web browsers.

Then came appworld, its not in the MENA region just yet RIM says they want it here and they’re pushing for it, but there is no launch date only a it will be here “soon” promise. (Which strikes me as odd because why would anyone invest time and effort to go teach a crowd how to develop apps if they can’t really market it or sell it on a bigger level with a trusted vendor.) Also announced was the new pricing plans for apps now developers can charge 0.99 and 1.99 USD for apps unlike before where the minimum was 2.99 USD, that being said pricing is still in it’s infancy so each and every developer should price their app according to what they feel and believe the market will pay.

Advertising on the apps was discussed and apparently Blackberry are not interested in being an advertising platform so they mediate all that out to an advertising partner that makes deals with advertising networks. For the app developers out there a very comprehensive analytics service will be available for free however this is still not live.

1 pm – 2pm: Lunch Break. The RIM team and the press were gathered in a private meeting I assume they we’re discussing/reviewing the playbook but can’t confirm that. FYI, after lunch crowd shrunk considerably.

2 pm – 3 pm: This section of the day was given to RIM partner’s they were supposed to deliver success stories however it was more like advertisement because, well, they didn’t tell any stories.

First Emitac Mobile Services (EMS) discussed their services and most importantly talked about a product that they have developed, which is a platform for BB apps basically a substitute for appworld in the region called ayoworld.com we will hopefully get you more information on that in the future.

After EMS, Apps Arabia took the stage and discussed how to invest in apps. Their strategy is simple: Investment, development and distribution. They help you with the investment, fund if you have a good idea for an app. They will get in touch with the developers and brief them on the app and Finally they will help distribute the app for you, because and I quote “Apps Arabia can promote your app better than you”.

However they do have a model that is very similar to the iTunes where they take 30% of the all the sales, because as they put it they handle all the risk and it is their only source of income. If you are a developer or just have a good idea for an app apply on the website they have simple forms and questions and as they see it the website is a community website and free to join.

Apps Arabia moved on to discuss some of the complaints that developers have previously had working with the BB platform:

  1. Poor channels to market
  2. Undefined customer payment
  3. Discovery of apps
  4. Pricing problem

Finally they gave a couple of tips for developing on the BB:

  1. Developers have to utilize the unique features of the BB; converting an iPhone app to work on the BB is not the right way of going about it. The whole user experience is different than other platforms so that has to be used as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
  2. Don’t build apps that you want to build, build apps that the market will demand.

3 pm – 5 pm: Before kicking off the last part of the presentation there was a draw for a BB Torch courtesy of EMS, which I didn’t win!

Sanyu came back to discuss in more details the technicalities of the new announcements, such as the location, file picker components which save you a great deal of time when developing an app, the Phonescreen API and of course the BBM API which is now in closed Beta stage and should be available in Beta stage for developers in spring of 2011.

BBM is the biggest mobile social network and unlike social media networks which were described as “they’re everywhere just like air” the BBM stands apart in the fact that the contacts you have on your BBM are your close trusted circle of friends/colleagues. Therefore if an API utilizes this feature there will be great potential for building relevant apps.

Next topic covered was the GPS and Geo-location apps, it is important to note that the GPS drains the battery very quickly more than the Geo-location feature and they should not be added to an app unless they are necessary, also the way they are used should be well thought out. A user does not want to lose their battery half way through the day because of the GPS. If a user does realize that a certain app is draining his/her battery they will delete it instantly.

Finally Sanyu took the remaining attendees deeper into the technicalities of the playbook, displaying the actual simulator on the screen. Interestingly enough the playbook does not have any buttons on the exterior everything is controlled by hand gestures, although it was difficult to appreciate the awe of the hand gesture on a big screen with a mouse cursor.

You can check out the images taken of the event on our Facebook page here. (mind the quality it was dark and I was further behind)

If you have any questions or comments regarding the event please get in touch with us below in the comment box.

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Having worked with top digital agencies in the MENA region for the past several of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, social and mobile. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.