Blackberry’s App Problem

Where are all the apps.

OK, let’s admit it. Blackberry is in serious trouble. The more bad news we hear about layoffs and bad sales numbers, the more the company’s propsects for recovery are hurt.

Even diehard BB lovers like the guys at are starting to question recent moves the company has made.

Unquestionably, one of the things that has hurt sales of the new Blackberry Z10 and Q10 is the lack of some of the big name apps. Whether you ever use Instagram or not, miliions do, and just knowing that it is there on iPhone or Android will sway many of them.

Given that attracting some of these big name app developers is an uphill battle, I want to suggest an alternative strategy. Yah, sure, keep on encouraging as many developers as possible. But at the same time recognize and acknowledge and even promote the fact that “apps” will some day soon be a thing of the past.

He was right about some things.

Back in 2010 Jim Balsillie said, “There may be 300,000 apps for the iPhone and iPad, but the only app you really need is the browser. You don’t need an app for the web … You don’t need to go through some kind of SDK … You can use your web tools … And you can publish your apps to the BlackBerry without writing any native code.” At the time this comment drew much scorn and ridicule, but I think this will ultimately be proven to be correct.

There will be (as there currently are) web apps that run in a browser, irrespective of the phone OS they happen to be running on. Why wouldn’t Facebook be this kind of app? Or Netflix? Or Skype? Or Instagram?

For example, I hear people complain about the lack of banking apps on BB10, but when I access the online banking site for my bank, it automatically shifts to the mobile site. No need for an app. Same for the newspaper I read every day.

Yes, of course, not everything we want to do with our phones can be handled this way. But much can be – and not too far in the future will be. This infatuation with apps is a phase we’re passing through, driven by small-time thinking, developer greed, platform exclusivity and narrow mindedness. Unfortunately BB may not be around when the phase is past.

In the meantime, why don’t they put their resources behind developing impressive platform independent (web and non-web based) “apps” that have value independent of BB10, iOS, Android, Windows, or any other platform that might come along?

BBM is an obvious example, but there are many others one could think of. This would continue to distinguish the BB platform as one that takes a slightly different approach. And it would build value independent of the platform whether it succeeds or not.

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