RIM's decision to offer multi-runtime support for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is understandable but potentially risky. Tapping into the developer communities surrounding multiple popular platforms - such as Android, Adobe Flash (previously announced), AirPlay and Unity games developers, C/C++ developers and its own BlackBerry smartphone developer community - will undoubtedly help expose RIM's PlayBook to a far larger addressable market of application developers.
But the myriad of options now available also runs the risk of confusing those same developers. This was previously the case for Nokia, which at one time was supporting upwards of 10 programming environments for its mobile developers. Apple, in comparison, has made a virtue of keeping its developer options simple - HTML and Objective C/Cocoa Touch - being effectively the only choices. However, this approach has clearly also been self-serving as it reinforces Apple's control over the distribution channel for iOS apps, namely the App Store.
RIM's dilemma is different. The success of mobile devices is increasingly coming to be dictated as much by the availability (or promise of availability) of desirable apps and content as it is by the quality of the devices themselves. While RIM's ecosystem building efforts have been laudable, and reasonably effective, it is nonetheless in danger of being relegated to a secondary player in the minds of developers.
Tony Cripps is Principal Analyst, Ovum.
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