RIM Throws Open the Doors on BlackBerry App World

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It’s no secret that Apple turned the smartphone world on its head with the introduction of the iPhone, then kind of did it again nine months ago with the launch of the wildly popular iTunes App Store with the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 software. Now, Apple’s competitors are finally getting into the game: Canada’s Research in Motion has officially launched BlackBerry App World, a new application store for BlackBerry devices. Initially the store is available in the U.S., UK, and Canada, but RIM plans to bring the store to other markets soon.

"BlackBerry App World provides a fantastic new resource for consumers and an equally exciting progression of business opportunities for our developer and carrier partners," said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, in a statement. "We are launching BlackBerry App World with a solid selection and we look forward to working with our partners to continue delivering the types of apps that best suit our customers’ personalized needs and interests."

BlackBerry App World is an on-device marketplace that users can access from their BlackBerry devices using cellular or Wi-Fi networks. The store offers both free and commercial applications—RIM expects roughly 1,000 applications will be available this week, including apps from the New York Times, Pandora, salesforce.com, MTV, Gameloft, Slacker, and more. The front page features a rotating selection of featured applications, along with a categorical listing of applications and a "top downloads" section so users can see what’s most popular. Users will also be able to search for apps, plus write reviews and rate applications. BlackBerry App World also features an application storage called My World that enables users to keep track of the applications they’ve bought or downloaded to make un-installing and re-installing easy—say when someone buys a new BlackBerry.

BlackBerry App World is available for BlackBerry devices running version 4.2 or higher and that have a trackball or touchscreen.

RIM’s proposition to developers to create and sell apps for its BlackBerry lines is, in some ways, more appealing than Apple’s: developers get to keep 80 percent of the revenue from app sales through the store (Apple gives developers 70 percent) and BlackBerry’s audience has historically been in enterprises and large organizations, where commercial communications and vertical market applications might be a lucrative business—of course, RIM has also been pushing into the consumer smartphone space with it’s recent Pearl, Curve, Storm, and Bold model lines.

RIM and Apple will soon see more competition in the mobile device store space: Microsoft has landed partners like Electronic Arts and Facebook for its forthcoming app store for Windows Mobile devices, and Nokia says it’s Ovi Store will be launching in early May.

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