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Heins charts BlackBerry future

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At BlackBerry DevCon Europe today, Thorsten Heins used his first public address as RIM CEO to outline BlackBerry’s revival strategy – and at its heart is making more money for developers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
While the snow blanketing the ground outside the RAI Convention Centre in Amsterdam this week bore testimony to freezing weather, the warmth inside was palpable.

In the main auditorium, Thorsten Heins, new President and CEO of Research In Motion (RIM), basked in the glow of approval of 2,000 attendees at the BlackBerry DevCon Europe conference. The first clue that his debut public appearance would be a hit came with news that DevCon was sold out well in advance, despite only rumours that he would speak.

Thorsten Heins delivers his debut address as RIM CEO, at BlackBerry DevCon Europe

The audience comprised mainly developers from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Heins used the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of this key target market. His core message? You can make more money with us.

That he chose to talk first at a developer conference, he said, was “to show my commitment and also RIM’s commitment to the developer community”.

He revealed that, despite it being the first BlackBerry developer conference in Europe, it was also its biggest ever. This reflected the fact that the device dominates many markets in the EMEA region.

Heins confirmed: “BlackBerry is the number one smartphone in many countries around the world, including the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and South Africa.”

Putting its money where its mouth is, he said, RIM had funding for 25 000 units of the new PlayBook 2.0 tablet computer to be given to developers to build and test new apps for the device. But, his presentation revealed, there was a far more significant benefit for developers embracing the BlackBerry platform.

“We’ll show you today that BlackBerry is one of most profitable platforms to work for,” he said. “Very clearly, developers are making money on BlackBerry and PlayBook today.”

He quoted research from Evans Data that showed 13% of all BlackBerry developers had made more than $100 000k in revenues from app world.

“That is more than from any iPhone or Android app, and I think that speaks to the economic power of our platform.”

Heins offered the following further evidence of the health of App World:

·       21% month-on-month growth of BlackBerry apps in App World;
·       more than 2bn apps downloaded from BlackBerry App World to date;
·       6-million apps downloaded from BlackBerry App World every day.

The most eagerly anticipated aspect of his address, the roadmap for the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, provided both more and less than was expected. Less because there was no clue that its roll-out would be accelerated in order to fast-track BlackBerry’s response to falling market share; and more because the functionality unveiled wowed the audience.

As RIM put it in a statement, BlackBerry 10 combines the best of BlackBerry OS and QNX, offering developers a single, converged platform, built from the ground up to deliver the most powerful, secure and social mobile computing experience yet.”

Said Heins, “BlackBerry 10 takes advantage of a deep integration into the core experience and a deep integration also with cloud services that we will provide. It is focused on a seamless experience between the devices, the cloud, the embedded OS, and all of that will be used in cars, homes, and even more vertical segments to come.”

Vivek Bhardwaj, head of RIM’s Software Portfolio for EMEA, joined Heins on stage to demonstrate the new BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 tablet. He earned a loud round of applause as he showed off the device’s smooth, elegant and appealing integration of all messaging into one interface – and without the need for bridging with a phone, as had been required by the first version. The messaging includes a unified inbox option for all communications, a rich HTML experience in e-mail, and pinch-to-zoom within the inbox.

“We’ve integrated a powerful inbox experience into one easy-to-use view,” said Bhardwaj.

The key to the PlayBook 2.0 approach is not merely giving such apps an independent existence on the tablet, but also integration across apps. This was evident in Bhardwaj’s demonstration of the calendar function, which is built around people rather than events.

“One of the things we’ve really focused on in the calendar is around people, relationships, social, making sure that you can get to the people you need to, and making sure that all the content is there. We’re not telling you to go to one application after another. We’re giving that experience in one view.”

Heins explained that this was part of the “paradigm” of PlayBook 2,0: “You can take any action out of your calendar or inbox and flow effortlessly between these applications.

“This I what we’re really, really focused on: we want to make it effortless for the users to resolve these applications and not being app aware and always having the in-and-out paradigm, as I call it.”

Heins was as enthusiastic about the new tablet as he was about the potential of the smartphone market.

“The smartphone market is still a young market. We see a huge opportunity there for us. There are about a billion phones out there that are not yet upgraded to a smartphone. 65% of the market roughly is still on feature phones or regular phones, so we are just getting into this huge growth curve for smartphones. We are going to kick off the next growth curve for BlackBerry with this technology.”

Heins concluded his “debut performance” with a warning to competitors that BlackBerry was ready for them:

“We are focused on the future. We’re focused on listening, innovating and, based on this fantastic platform, we are ready to compete, make no mistake.  Upgrades to PlayBook 2.0 and our vision for BlackBerry 10 reflect our commitment to get it right, to get the right user experience, to get the best value out of this platform.”

* For more information about BlackBerry DevCon Europe 2012, visit www.blackberry.com/devconeurope

* Follow Arthur Goldstuck on Twitter on @art2gee

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