RIM CEO Poopoos Need for Mobile Apps

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Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie is publicly attacking Apple’s emphasis on an App experience of the Internet on its iOS mobile and tablet devices. At the Web 2.0 Summit, Mr. Balsillie said that they key to a good mobile device is a full Web browser that can access everything on the Web, including Flash sites, and that Apple has made the wrong choice by emphasizing, “There’s an app for that.”

“We believe that you can bring the mobile to the Web but you don’t need to go through some kind of control point of an SDK, and that’s the core part of our message,” Mr. Balsillie said, according to eWeek. “You don’t need an app for the Web [or to use a special defined set of development tools.]”

“So you reject the appification of the Web?” Summit host John Battelle asked Mr. Balsillie, who answered, “Correct.”

Mr. Balsillie’s comments come in the wake of Apple CEO Steve Jobs publicly dismissing RIM as credible competition going forward, and as his company works to bring its new Playbook tablet to market. The Playbook is a 7” device, a form factor that Mr. Jobs also attacked as being “tweener,” too small for a good user interface and too big to be a smartphone.

Apple has garnered a lot of mindshare and positive press for the enormous number of apps available on its iOS App Store, more than 300,000 and counting. RIM’s BlackBerry platform, on the other hand, has somewhere North of 10,000 apps, as of September. At the same time, Playbook supports Flash, whereas Apple’s iPad does not, all of which should offer some context for Mr. Balsillie’s comments.

On October 19th, he published a blog post where he said, “While Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple. developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of Websites that use Flash.”

Someone apparently forgot to let developers know about their unhappiness, however, as they continue to develop more iOS apps than any for other mobile platform. Consumers also missed the memo, as iPads and iPhones continue to gain momentum. In the September quarter, Apple sold more iPhones than RIM sold BlackBerrys, and Apple owned some 95% of the tablet market Q3, though that market was as yet devoid of any real competition.

Android, which has the second largest number of apps, passed both platforms to be the largest smartphone OS in the U.S. during the 3rd quarter, though no single device touches the popularity of iPhone.

In the video below, Mr. Balsillie demonstrates Playbook playing Flash movies (like the one we’re showing you) on YouTube.

Playbook Demonstration

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Steve Jobs from 2007 called, he wants his webapps back

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The difference is that Steve Jobs’ webapps in 2007 weren’t as rich as what Flash will deliver on PlayBook. The advantage that PlayBook will provide over iPad in corporate settings is that rich enterprise apps can be delivered right through the web browser. No need to do cumbersome enterprise deployments (like iPad). No need to have an app approved and distributed through an app store. It also means you can bring your entire installed base up to date by posting a new version of your Flash app on your server.

Apple and its proponents may or may not be right about the technical aspects of Flash. I think they exaggerate and obfuscate (a lot), but lets put that debate aside a moment. RIM has figured out that Flash means much less friction for its customers to deploy and use applications. It will also mean far lower costs to develop and deploy custom applications for their businesses. That’s going to be a very compelling selling point for the PlayBook. Do you want control of your business processes or do you want shiny Apple gadgets? That’s how they will phrase the competition.


BlackBerry…has somewhere North of 10,000 apps

On the other hand, Bryan, I bet those 10K apps are for the ‘legacy’ Blackberry phone OS, not the QNX that RIM bought and rebranded as the ‘BlackBerry Tablet OS.’

@Bosco Flash remains a lowest-common denominator platform that will harm and hamper innovation, long term. If we stuck with such ‘commodity’ UXs we’d still be facing a blinking command prompt.


Bosco:  I don’t mean to stop you, when you are on a roll, but enterprise customers needn’t distribute their homegrown apps through iTunes and can distribute their own apps on their own servers, at least since iOS 4.1, and I think earlier.

As for Flash, though I certain don’t constitute a scientific sample, I block flash on all my browsers on my computers and rarely miss it.  And YouTube now has an HTML5 option for most of its video. 

Flash is like a bad actor in early westerns, whose character is mortally wounded:  It takes too long to die.


I did not like webapps and would not want to see their return. I don?t always have wireless access on my phone or want to pay more for data. I like having apps handy that work with and without the internet.

Note that I am not saying that RIM makes bad devices - just that I would want to use apps on a RIM device just like I use them on an iOS device.

I would also dispute that Flash is necessary for any mobile device. By the time Adobe gets flash working properly on these mobile devices HTML5 will be ready to displace it for all but a tiny fraction of its applications.


Flash is like a bad actor in early westerns, whose character is mortally wounded:?It takes too long to die.

Me, Imma filching that gutbuster quote and bandying it about at the saloon.


Do you want control of your business processes or do you want shiny Apple gadgets

- Is like asking “Do you want to be in control of your car or do you want a shiny new Honda(for example)?

It’s not a meaningful choice.  Control of business processes is essentially a human activity.  Depending on the size and complexity of your business you may need software to be in effective control of your processes.

You always have to be in control of your business processes otherwise, just like a car, you will be in great danger of driving it over a cliff.

The question for businesses (as opposed to retail consumers) is which software supplier will provide the necessary functionality and what guarantee do I have that the software is complete, reliable and available 24/7. Secondly, what hardware and supporting infrastructure do I need.

All too often, when businesses look a business process software they put technical considerations before functional requirements. That can turn out to be an expensive mistake.

Software can be as shiny and new and cool as it’s possible to be - but if it doesn’t do what you need it to do then it’s annoying if you’re a retail consumer and it’s a disaster if you’re a business.


” though I certain don?t constitute a scientific sample” - correct.

RIM is just allowing developers to choose what to develop in. They integrated the Flash player at a low level platform so devs can choose to use it or not. It’s amazing how against choice you guys are. You really like to have Apple tell you whats good/bad?

The most fertile and exciting UI/UX research work over the past 10 years has been rolled out in Flash BECAUSE it’s a low cost of entry. It’s AS code and timeline combination in the IDE has opened up possibilities that were not possible with any other tech at the same cost.  You want low cost and quick uptake so you can have the greatest access and work by the largest number of artists/designers.  That is how UX advancement occurs, not by having one company tell you what it should look like, what it should be coded in, and if it will be allowed to ever be downloaded by users.

Just look at css3-all those animation abilities were trailblazed by Flash (in 2000). Flash developers/designers figure out what the standards need to codify 5 years later (svg and canvas are other examples), by solving problems today with the Flash Platform. Along with Unity3d it’s doing it for 3D as well. 

The idea that Flash somehow *impedes* advancement in UX/UI is silly at best (and actually is not logical at all). The lack of creativity (and the ability to express that creativity) is what will impede advancement.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Ethan: Flash hatred is what has been preached in the Church of Apple for the last year, so that’s what these people do.

@Nemo: So what does that cost a 10 person operation that has already moved their cell service to AT&T and bought iPhone for all its people? Curious. Because the distribution I described costs about free incrementally to what these businesses are already doing. With Flash, you can deploy on a myriad of devices and platforms, including the desktop. So if you decide that you don’t like one device or once carrier, you can transition without having to rewrite software. I don’t think Apple will be able to get through next summer without caving on Flash downloaded from anywhere for iOS devices. Even what they allow now after EU regulatory pressure is more cumbersome and expensive than it needs to be. The regulators won’t need to act, customers will see how Apple keeps sucking money out of their pockets with its tight control, and they’ll go with suppliers who don’t behave that way.

@VaughnSC: Flash is the best, least expensive tool for the job for developing a good 80% of apps you’ll find in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Android Marketplace. It has a developer pool of over 1 million. It reaches mobile, the desktop, and the browser from single source base with ease. Call it least common denominator if you like, but it enjoys a very strong advantage in development economics that is mostly hindered at this point by rhetoric. It has a multi-billion dollar company all-in on its continued development and improvement, so the risk for developers is basically very low if they assume that Apple will not dominate these markets, and non-existent if they assume Apple will just crawl to its inconsequential niche like it always does.


While RIM continues to think in yesterday’s world, Apple shall continue to write the future; the rest will lop along behind, like nervous pups. And it’s been how many months since the iPad and its pricing so upset HP they moved with diarrheic speed to withdraw the scheduled appearance of their slate? Their shock and horror brought tears to many an eye. My gran wanted to take up a collection; her answer to all life’s little concerns. But I digress….

Slow is how the Playbook looked and slower than dead seems its release. (Maybe they think Christmas comes in July.) The only future RIM and, like thinking Envyboys, bring to the table is the future tense. The future World RIM lives in would be declining revenue and products that have that classy antique hue.

Maybe gran’s idea isn’t so off target. She has a soft spot for losers and Envyboys. They seem so distraught with worry and excuse and denial whilst crying “future don’t pass me by”.

* If you like the tune, it’s now available through the iTunes Store.


multi-billion dollar company all-in on its continued development and improvement

Sounds more like iOS/Apple than Flash/Adobe, especially after you said ‘improvement’.

It reaches mobile, the desktop, and the browser from single source base

Yes, comrades, El Gran Bosco is right; and let’s not forget instant updates. This is why we all use web-apps and embrace Java for for write-once, deploy everywhere? oh, glorious revolution! What? We haven’t? wink


One needn’t hate Flash to find it useless, or at the very least non-critical.


A question about business/enterprise use of Flash: Will the typical business Flash applications work well on a touchscreen device, vs a laptop or desktop with a keyboard and mouse? A lot of the Flash webapps I’ve seen use rollover and other cursor-based functions that probably wouldn’t work too well on a touchscreen device.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@gslusher: You are making observations about Flash apps and Flash player available a year ago. New Flash apps can support all the gestures a tablet or smart phone typically supports, including all the iOS ones. Old Flash apps can be updated. There’s even some support in the newest mobile Flash player to apply new gestures to old apps.

With Playbook, I think you’ll see Flash as a primary API for developing new apps, while also supporting existing apps. In that case, the concerns about rollover, etc. are just plain unfounded.


With Playbook, I think you?ll see Flash as a primary API for developing new apps

With the italiceized clause, that remark becomes as insightful as auguring that Xcode will dominate iOS development.

But seriously, if ‘gesture parity’ is all that is required to play, then why isn’t the current Android ‘tablet-ready’ per Google?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

No Vaughn, it’s actually way more insightful, because there is a good chance that your Flash app you write for Playbook might actually work on an Android tablet and other mobile form factors. There is absolutely no chance that something you write in Cocoa Touch (“Xcode” isn’t the right word for the API) will work on a non-Apple device.

Look, it’s obvious what gshlusher was getting at. It’s the smug Apple fan position that if something is Flash, it’s necessarily fill of suck, bound to fail, and these idiots at RIM are too stupid to realize how much fail they are baking in. It’s just like how Apple fans approach what they call Android fragmentation: bound to fail, and all those idiots in the Android community are too stupid to realize how much fail they have baked in. The problem with both positions is when the fail fails to occur, and instead, they turn out to be more successful than Apple’s offerings. The latter has been the case with Android phones, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not. The former might be the case with tablets very soon. I’d bet on it, just the way I did with Android phones a year ago. There is enough anti-Apple sentiment for very legitimate reasons, that a workable competitor to iPad will likely gain traction. Right now, that workable competitor doesn’t even have to be “as good” as iPad. It just has to be reasonably open without control choke points. A year from now, it probably has to be better in enough informed people’s minds, much like Android phones v. iPhones today.

Smartphones were Apple’s to lose, and they’ve managed to lose a hell of a lot of ground they had complete dominance over in 13 months. Tablets are the same deal. And, strangely, the path that will lead there or off the cliff for competitors is paved with Flash. So if you’re an Apple fan, your anti-Flash, anti-Adobe position is the one you are doubling down on now. I don’t think that’s a safe bet for you.


Look, it?s obvious what gshlusher was getting at

It’s “gslusher”—only one “h.”

I guess you’ve added mind-reading to your bag of tricks. It was a legitimate question. A business owner I know was talking about just that a week or so ago. His site uses Flash a lot. His developer told him that much of the site will have to be re-designed and re-written to work on mobile touchscreen devices.

Smartphones were Apple?s to lose, and they?ve managed to lose a hell of a lot of ground they had complete dominance over in 13 months.

When did Apple have “complete dominance” over smartphones? They’ve never been the top seller of smartphones. (It was only in the last quarter that Apple passed RIM in unit sales.) Nokia was and still is the top seller of smartphones.

Perhaps Apple doesn’t really care that much about “market share.” They care about making useful devices and making money. So far, Apple has been able to sell more cellphones than anyone except Nokia, Samsung, and LG. (That’s counting ALL handsets, not just smartphones.) Yet, apparently, Apple earns more from the iPhone than Nokia does from ALL its phones. According to Horace Deidu of asympco, Apple’s earnings from the iPhone are about the same as Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, RIM and Sony Ericsson combined. (I left LG out because they lost money on cellphones.) They did this all the while without supporting Flash. In fact, it wasn’t until the iPad was announced that Adobe started to get nasty about Flash not being on Apple’s mobile devices, though, at the time, they still didn’t have a fully-functional mobile Flash.

When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, he said that Apple’s goal was 1% of the global cellphone market—again, counting all handsets, not just smartphones. According to various sources, they now have about 4% of all handset sales.

Right now, there are more iOS devices around than Android OS devices, counting the iPod touch and iPad. We’ll have to see what the future brings with the Android tablet sales.

Why aren’t Samsung, HTC, etc, developing an Android-based counter to the iPod touch? That is puzzling to me. It would be pretty simple, I expect—just leave out the phone bits. I know quite a few people (including teens) who have an iPod touch and a fairly simple “feature phone.” They don’t want to pay for a data plan: they use the phone mostly for texting and sharing photos. I may go that way, myself, replacing my antique Palm TX with an iPod touch and keeping my even-more-antique Samsung flip phone, rather than get an iPhone or Android OS phone. (I finally got Verizon to stop calling and texting me with offers to “upgrade” the phone with a new contract. My contract expired 3 years ago.)

Bryan Chaffin

Brad, it’s time for another prop bet!

Firstly, there is no one phone that is anywhere near as popular as the iPhone. A ton of offerings cumulatively adding up to outsell the iPhone is not the same as being more successful than iPhone.

Yes, one can measure success subjectively. One can say that top OS market share is success, but one can also say that the #1 selling device, or 82% of the cell phone profits, or the most apps, or the highest customer satisfaction, or some other measure is what defines success.

And now we come to my prop bet: My belief is that Android tablets won’t take off in 2011, and that PlayBook will sell less than a two million units in 2011, if that.

Further more, where as the Android experience has been good enough for smartphones, I believe the barrier for acceptance will be much, much higher for the tablet space. There, apps will prove to be even more important than in the smartphone space.

So my prop bet: Apple maintains 80% tablet market share through calendar 2011. I’ll give you a second prop bet here and now, too: Apple maintains 70% tablet market share through 2012.

I was trying to think of a third one on how Flash apps will be a bunch of FAIL, but I can’t think of a good way to measure it.

Stakes: A steak dinner when you come to my neck of the woods.  Let’s make it The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. smile

If you want the 2012 second bet, same stakes.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bryan, it’s not quite the right bet. The steaks are the right stakes, but the bet isn’t quite the right bet. I’m inclined to agree with you w.r.t. 10” general purpose tablets. Where do you slot the color Nook, which is actually an Android tablet? And then by extension, Kindle?

As I see it, iPhone is Macintosh in 1994, the winner in its private, collapsing niche with a more open multi-vendor standard quickly grabbing market share in a rapidly expanding market. iPad is Macintosh in 1988, very different, but without a standard coalescing yet that will compete on price, features, and variety.

I’m more confident that Flash will be a key differentiator between whatever emerges and the iPad. It may even be that OS choice (RIM’s, Android, webOS, etc.) might be like the graphic or sound card in early 90s Wintel PCs, i.e. not the key differentiator. Apple’s arch-enemies always seem to prevail in the long run.

I guess I need to think about how to word it. A year from now, iPad won’t be all that because a collection of somethings from a collection of companies that are less controlled will be winning with the masses while iPad retreats to an elite niche. There’s too much price room between what Apple can do at its profit margins and zero for vigorous competition to fail to emerge.


@Bryan: You won’t see me turning down any steak dinner and good times, free or otherwise. You’ll hear from me the next time I’m near SFO.

@Bosco: You can keep moving down ‘by extension’ and you’ll eventually arrive at Tamagotchi-ripoff virtual-pet keychains. Kindle doesn’t run Flash AFAIK, so why is it germane to the scope of this ‘wager’?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@VaughnSC: My thoughts on this are too incomplete to know what to bet on right now. But basically, I would bet on some combination of Flash/AIR and low censorship even if competitors are totally incompetent with the hardware (which they aren’t). Here’s an example of why. The point is really driven home from the 8:00 mark forward. These two are funny games. Do they get into the App Store? Puzzle Strip, definitely not. Home Run? Questionable to doubtful. Both of these games would be just as cool on a tablet in large form with more graphic detail as on a phone

So I just bought the first and downloaded the free second one. They’re both really well done, and I know that the developers could focus their efforts on “the game” rather than lower level programming and the intricacies of Objective-C. That’s why I’m very bullish on Flash as a platform in and of itself and moderately bullish on whatever is underneath as a vehicle, even if it’s 5 different things.


Really Bryan, you should just give Brad a whole cow’s worth of steak and a byline for giving you these great future headlines…

“By Extension” column by El Gran Bosco:
“RIM’s Playbook set to trounce iPad in enterprise adoption as businessmen flock to sizzling ‘Puzzle Strip’ app”

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Or perhaps the anti-Apple revolution will start with independent radio stations. I love how Steve has reportedly apologized for (Apple?) having made the decision.

In your hearts you all know this is wrong and inexcusable, because most of you are decent people. That’s why it will be so fun to stick around here and watch the reaction as that same crappy ol’ Flash that all righteous Mac fans want dead become the de facto standard that pushes iPad into a typical Apple niche.

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