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RIM opens BlackBerry 10 marketplace for submissions

Will $10,000 woo the developers?

RIM has opened its BlackBerry App World store to applications for its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system, with a truckload of incentives to get developers onside.

"This is a huge opportunity to be the first into the store and capitalize on app-hungry BlackBerry users," announced Alec Saunders, RIM’s VP of developer relations.

The company is running an international BlackBerry Jam Enterprise tour in October and November, with five US events, four in Europe, and possibly two in Latin America. The free sessions will cover topics like porting Java applications to the platform, developing enterprise apps, and tweaking for performance and stability, with some developers getting BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha devices.

Developers submitting early will get the first crack of the whip on the sales-boosting front page, with those sent in by October and November getting preferred status. RIM is also promising $10,000 to those applications it judges "Built for Blackberry," provided they shift $1,000 of product themselves.

The launch is aimed at solving RIM's biggest problem. The company ignored apps for far too long, and despite denials from management, RIM is losing the attention of mobile developers. Android and iOS clearly have the bulk of the market and RIM now needs to win back support quickly - not only to maintain its status but to fight off Ballmer's boys pushing Windows Phone 8.

Chucking $10m into the pot for 1,000 good applications could well be a good deal for RIM, but will developers bite? At September's BlackBerry Jam conference RIM showed off a smattering of new BlackBerry 10 applications (sometimes while breaking into song) and promised full social networking integration to the handset, but it'll need more than that to make an impression.

Saunders stuck to the company's forecast of a Q1 release for the new operating system, but shareholders will be keen for something to mitigate RIM's quarterly results in February, and the stock price is down 90 per cent from Valentine's Day last year. RIM's shares had another fall on Tuesday as an analyst's note suggested the new OS won’t be launched until March.

In financial terms, BlackBerry 10 has to work for RIM. While the last quarter's results showed a loss of $235m while increasing subscribers slightly, the company is sitting on reserves of $2.3bn and it'll take a fair chunk of that to prime the pump for the new operating system's launch. After that, it's got to rely on bringing back old CrackBerry addicts and winning over new users.

The company has a lot of strengths. It's still got strong support in government and some enterprise sectors, is good on security, the Messenger platform is very popular with younger buyers, and CEO Thorsten Heins has whipped the company into the most efficient shape it has been in a long time, even adding to the company's slush fund last quarter. In a year or so from now we'll know if he can pull it off. ®

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