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Here comes the knife ...
But don't take my word for it. Here's how the coders at Localytics, whose business is analytics for creators of software for mobile devices, describe the development process for the BlackBerry OS:
BlackBerry has maintained backwards compatibility, so old apps will run fine on newer hardware. Apps are built with only J2ME and a handful of libraries provided by RIM making it difficult to create a very rich application experience.
And here's how they describe the iPhone development experience:
iPhone is well rooted with its sleek UI builder and clear design guidelines. It is based on OSX, which means many developers will be familiar with it.
To be fair, I'm taking only the first two sentences of both reviews.If you'd like to see each critique in full, go ahead, I'll wait. You'll find that while Localytics' coders concede that the iPhone has limitations, they argue that the OS is well-designed and developer-friendly.
For the most part, anyway. The iPhone differs from Android, BlackBerry, and even Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Mobile and Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM ) webOS handsets in that it doesn't support background processing -- allowing only one active application at a time. This limitation explains why iPhoners can only receive Skype calls when the software is open on their screens.
But this appears to be a minor complaint. As battle-tested and backwards-compatible as the BlackBerry OS is, developers relish the richness of other platforms more. For example, there are only 916 games in RIM's BlackBerry App World, versus more than 16,000 in the App Store at last count.
Night of the overcaffeinated developers
If that sounds it bad, it is. Apple is courting developers at a pace not seen since a frighteningly enthusiastic Steve Ballmer exhorted coders years ago at a Windows developer conference.
The strategy appears to be working. A new survey from ChangeWave Research shows that RIM's 40% market share among consumers endured a 1% haircut from June to September. Apple's iPhone gained five percentage points over the same period. At a 30% share, it's now the No. 2 smartphone supplier here in North America. Palm was third, at 7%.
Where RIM really suffers in ChangeWave's survey is consumer sentiment. Of those who plan to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days, 36% plan to buy iPhones, versus 27% for the BlackBerry.
But these are consumers. The BlackBerry is largely a business device, and in the enterprise, ChangeWave Director of Research Paul Carton expects Research In Motion to continue to perform well:
RIM is expected to have multiple device launches and will introduce new services in the coming months. Moreover it continues to outperform in its core corporate smart phone market. Thus, despite RIM's underperformance in the current consumer survey, longer term trends suggest that it is still well positioned for long term growth and will continue to remain one of the premier players in the rapidly expanding smart phone market.
Nowhere to hide, not even in Asia
The key phrase there: "one of." RIM no longer dominates a niche; smartphones are now as much for moms as they are business executives, and they're in demand worldwide.
Which -- surprise! -- is more bad news for the BlackBerry maker. More than 70% of Research In Motion's revenue originates in the United States and Canada. What's more, mobile software tracker Getjar estimates that RIM's various handsets account for just 0.35% of the Asian market.
Apple accounts for a tenth of RIM's total in Asia, but is gaining momentum even as Research In Motion is losing it. Consider China Mobile (NYSE: CHL ) . RIM's primary smartphone partner for that country is negotiating with several vendors, and has a deal with Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) . The BlackBerry is anything but a priority.
There's a reason for this, Fool. As great as the BlackBerry has been, the evidence we have suggests that it's still largely a deliverer of mobile email, and not much more. It isn't a platform on the same level as the iPhone, or the varying Android handsets that exist today. Until that changes -- and let's be honest, it may never change -- this is as scary a stock as you'll find in today's market.
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