Does BlackBerry 10 have the apps it needs to take on Android and iPhone?

BlackBerry 10 apps

At the launch event for BB 10 yesterday BlackBerry’s VP of Global Alliances and Business Development, Martyn Mallick, claimed that apps are “at the heart” of the new platform. He made a big deal out of the fact that everyone wants their favorites and went on to talk about BlackBerry’s great partnerships with developers which will deliver them. For a new platform to hit the ground running with more than 70,000 apps is impressive and there are some big names in the launch line-up, but is it enough for success?

Looking beyond the popular apps that BlackBerry has secured, there are some glaring omissions that could turn people off the new platform. A lack of Google apps, no eBay, no Instagram, no Spotify, and no Netflix immediately spring to mind. We know that eBay is on the way, but despite BlackBerry’s best efforts, we have no confirmation on when, or even if, the others might land on BB 10.

Not for lack of trying

The company formerly known as RIM cannot be faulted for a lack of effort in the app department. In the run up to BB 10’s unveiling, BlackBerry tried to stimulate interest in the new platform with a number of schemes. It offered developers a guaranteed $10,000 payout after the first year if their app hit certain quality standards and made at least $1,000 over 12 months.

Then there were two big port-a-thon events, where BlackBerry offered developers $100 for every approved app to be ported to BB 10. That swelled the app ranks by over 34,000 and helped BlackBerry reach that healthy 70,000 figure in time for release, but what about the big apps? The apps that people really want can’t be snagged with small offers like these.

Two apps that BlackBerry fans have been vociferous about wanting on the new platform are Skype and Netflix. Anyone who took part in the CrackBerry campaign to email the Skype CEO and demand an app will be pleased to hear that Skype is available on BB 10. As for Netflix, there’s still no news on a BlackBerry app, but users are hopeful. Back in the summer, RIM’s VP of Developer Relations, Alec Saunders, answered a couple of questions from fans by saying “If Netflix asked, we would have a team of developers at their site within 24 hours. #myth #busted.”

BlackBerry can’t force companies to develop apps for the BB 10 platform. It’s a problem that Windows Phone has run up against as well. The only thing guaranteed to get the big apps on board is decent market share and BlackBerry doesn’t yet have that.

Missing in action

When it comes to missing apps, the BlackBerry company line is that they are in talks about bringing all the big names to BB 10, but can’t confirm anything. When challenged about the lack of Hulu and Spotify on Twitter yesterday, Saunders replied “not all will be there initially, but we are talking with them all about dates” and went on to say, “we have plenty of apps, and many credible substitutes for those you name.”

Whether potential customers will accept that will probably depend on how invested they are in the specific services that are currently missing. We highlighted some of the top BlackBerry 10 launch apps yesterday; let’s take a quick look at some of the high profile misses.

There’s no news on Google’s app line-up including YouTube, Google Maps, Google+, Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Music, Google Reader, and Google Voice. BB 10 users will be able to watch YouTube via the browser and there might be workarounds for some of the others, but if you’re heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, you might have a tough time choosing a BlackBerry over an Android or an iPhone.

Other popular apps that aren’t there yet include Netflix, Hulu, Instagram, Spotify, Pandora, and HBO Go. Regular users are unlikely to be tempted onto BlackBerry without them, but it is early days. There is also a real dearth of games on BB 10 compared to other platforms. Of course, no new platform launches with a mature line-up, so the challenge for BlackBerry is to add as many as it can as quickly as it can.

How important are they?

The way Apple and Google crow about app totals, you would think the big number was the most important thing, but it really isn’t. The App Store and Google Play have both exceeded 700,000 apps, but the vast majority of people use a small set of apps frequently. Localytics reported that 26 percent of apps are only used once after install.

With huge numbers of low quality apps and many offerings that are little more than shortcuts to mobile websites, app store totals are inflated. The same is true of BlackBerry 10’s 70,000 apps as Martyn Mallick explained to reporters at yesterday’s launch event “40 percent are wrapped Android applications.” They haven’t been designed for the BB 10 platform and so they are unlikely to offer the best possible experience.

Chicken and egg

In many ways it’s a real chicken and egg situation for BlackBerry. The company can’t tempt developers and service providers to produce dedicated BB 10 apps because the user base is too small and it can’t tempt in more users without a decent array of top quality apps. If it expects BB 10 to succeed on a grand scale and not just as a niche enterprise platform or default choice for hardcore fans, then it will need to cajole, persuade, and tempt those big app providers over the fence.

We get the impression that BlackBerry execs are doing all they can, but the ball simply isn’t in their court for this one. If the value proposition isn’t there, or a competitive clash is a stumbling point, then there’s no way they can make it happen. Still, we have to say that BB 10 seems like it has a more complete app lineup than almost any other first-generation operating system.

What do you think? Are missing apps a deal breaker for you? Do you trust that BB 10 will add the big apps in the coming months? Post a comment and share your thoughts.

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