Research In Motion is doing what no smartphone maker has done before -- offering developers guaranteed income for apps.
Alec Saunders, RIM's developer guru, told listeners during his keynote at the BlackBerry Jam developer event on Tuesday that the company will guarantee apps they make for the BlackBerry 10 platform will earn $10,000 in the first year they are on the digital App World store shelves.
But it's not just an empty promise. If the app doesn't pan out at least $10,000 in the first 12 months of availability, RIM pledged to pay the developer the difference. The only two stipulations: it has to be a "certified BlackBerry 10" app -- there isn't any information yet as to what exactly what means -- and the app has to earn at least $1,000 on its own.
We called Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis who spent some time at BlackBerry World in Orlando this week, to get his thoughts on RIM's unusual tactic.
"The application development guarantee is a different way of attacking the problem that we've seen with other mobile operating system vendors," Greengart told us. "There have been a lot of contests to come out with good apps. Some offered cash prizes. There's been a lot of app funds. Microsoft has been going around writing checks to people to port apps over to the Windows Phone 7."
As he sees it, RIM is making an interesting plea to app developers, basically saying, "You should be developing for the BlackBerry because you are going to make money, which is the reason you develop for any platform. If you don't believe me we'll make sure you make money."
An Offer Devs Can Refuse?
Instead of paying for the port RIM is sort of offering an insurance policy. But can the insurance policy woo enough developers to make BlackBerry App World more attractive -- attractive enough to drive handset sales? First, Greengart said, it's important to note that RIM doesn't need to beat Apple in the smartphone app game. RIM, he said, just needs to carve out a spot for itself.
"This guarantee is certainly not enough of an incentive for the big guys who expect a lot bigger returns than $10,000. But the overall reaction from developers depends on the attitude toward RIM," Greengart said.
For example, developers working on enterprise apps might already be considering the BlackBerry platform. The guarantee, then, could give those developers more confidence. Developers targeting apps at emerging markets where BlackBerry is extremely strong, he added, could find the guarantee an attractive proposition.
"This is really more of a marketing tool than anything else," Greengart said. "RIM has been saying that people aren't giving them enough credit for the monetization that BlackBerry's App World offers. Now they are willing to put their money where their mouth is."