Five Minutes with Jeff McDowell from RIM

By on May 4, 2010
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Find out what one of the top guys at RIM has to say about the App World, Carrier relations and what to expect from RIM in the year ahead.

Jeff McDowell- Senior VP Business & Market Alliance, RIM.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff McDowell, Senior Vice President, Business Marketing & Alliances, RIM. As Senior Vice President, Business Marketing and Alliances, at RIM, Jeff McDowell is responsible for the global growth of both Enterprise business activity and the Alliance relationships that build value on top of the BlackBerry Platform

t-break: Why is the App World not available in certain parts of the world like the UAE and when can we expect it to be available?

Jeff McDowell: We want the App World to be as quickly available as possible everywhere but there a couple of factors- first one being continued localization of products in all the different languages. Then you have the legalities of selling applications in different countries. So we’re just getting everything setup to operate in those countries.

The other area where we’re focused on is having local applications and we’re actually doing pretty well in the Middle East in terms of finding application developers who want to have applications specific to their region on the App World.

We’re also looking into having App World preloaded on the devices and thus working in partnership with carriers to do carrier billing so you’ll be able to pay for apps through your carrier bill- or at least have that option available to you. So the strategy is to provide App World broadly and provide multiple payment mechanisms along with a rich catalog of apps.

t-break: I’m not a developer but I’ve hear from developers that it’s a lot easier to develop for the iPhone or Android than the Blackberry- why is that so?

Jeff McDowell: We’ve got ten years of legacy. We built our development platform when Wireless Networks were 4kb/sec. We focused on efficiency and finding ways of using these networks that were hardly usable by any other application. So we built an Operating system that was able to handle the slowness and bad coverage. Our operating system and platform is purposely built for real-time wireless communication and we do really really well with that.

At some point in our history we realized that same platform we used for emails could be used for applications as well so we opened up a product on the back-end server called MDS- Mobile Data Service. That avails the same secure pipe we use for emails for applications. At the same time, our Operating system was based on Java and we availed that to developers through an SDK. Java at that time was the evolving standard and a very popular standard in the Smartphone technology.

We got a lot of developers back then and we evolved from there in a very rich way with deep integration so a Blackberry app can talk to other apps. For example, our eBay application talks to your calendar and reminds you of an auction is ending. The level of integration present in our operating system is not possible in many other operating systems. The result is that an application on our platform is much more- sticky. Take Facebook for example that injects birthdays from your contacts into the calendar and allows for chatting. All these features make the app very sticky.

Other platforms that have come up recently focus on simple to develop SDK but what they gain in simplicity they may not have in functionality and the deep rich integration that we could offer. So a little bit of trade-offs there, a little bit of legacy where we came from but we’re doing all kinds of great stuff to improve such as the WebKit browser coming in. We’ve got a great relationship with Adobe and we’re doing all kinds of stuff with Adobe tools, integration with Google Gear and the widget platform we’re doing now. We’ve got all kinds of stuff in our pipeline that’s going to make the Blackberry extremely easy to develop for.

t-break: When the Blackberry Storm was released, did you see it as an opportunity to break away from the legacy platform as it is a full touch consumer device unlike other corporate focused devices?

Jeff McDowell: We definitely had to do our homework in building a developer kit that used touch and gestures and one without a keyboard and I think we did ok. It has a bigger screen that you really want to take advantage of when building an app. We looked at it as a specific opportunity to build a platform that was more focused on the consumer with media built into it. But we learnt a lot from it and you’re going to see more and more of that stuff into our other new products. The stuff we learnt from Storm, the way people use and interact with things is going to go into our general platform for all devices. We want to create as much consistency between our devices as possible but at the same time we want to accentuate the specific features of individual phones.

t-break: One of the greatest strengths for RIM is their relationships with Network Operators. For example, I have an unlimited data packages even while roaming that other handset manufacturers can’t provide that. Can you tell us how that works- is it a contract you have to renew every year?

Jeff McDowell: That’s an area outside my expertise but I can tell you that we have very strong ongoing relationships with our carriers. We certainly have terms attached with our contracts because all contracts have terms attached but our strategy calls for nothing but strong alignment with carriers. You will always see carriers adopting our technology and taking it to market the same way- we try to align to their needs.

We don’t do things to step on to their interest which makes us friendly and desirable for carriers to work with. We make them a lot of money and we do it in a way they’re happy with. There are contracts involved but that has never come up as a limiter. The carriers love our strategy and they stick with us because of that.

We would like to thank Mr. McDowell and RIM for the opportunity.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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