Talking about the App World and the BlackBerry PlayBook
At Planet of the Apps last week, I had a chance to sit down with Mike Al Mefleh- the Director of Product Management at RIM Middle East. I spoke to Mike about RIM’s plans to introduce the App Store in the UAE as well as their upcoming tablet- the BlackBerry PlayBook. The following are excerpts from that interview.
Tell us a little bit about Planet of the Apps and RIM’s participation.
I think its a great event where we can educate the developers about the tools available and the kind of things that can be used to develop as well as share our vision and where we are looking for to really bring that rich and healthy experience to the consumers. So one of our colleagues is here from the development team and she has been presenting and talking about the whole journey of development aspects such as the tool that are available and how to develop Super Apps?
We have been waiting for a very long time for the BlackBerry App Store in the region and there seems to be some good news coming with it being launched in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait Jordan and Lebanon.
It’s been up and running for a week or two now in these countries. We have to go through the due diligence of bringing them to the market. We have actually had it turned on here (in the UAE) to test it. Aspects such as quality, the applications, the operations, the billing and everything else involved.
When can we expect it to be fully functional in UAE and KSA?
So we are working through this- obviously given that UAE and KSA are our biggest markets (in the region) with the highest subscribers base. We are working with the carriers and ensuring the quality- I mean we have to get the content, the applications and do all the testing to ensure the whole experience is right from get to go for the customers.
Was it hard for you to attract developers from the region because the App World didn’t exist until a couple of weeks back?
Not necessarily- we are engaging the developers and the good news about the App World availability has been coming- it’s up and running in other countries so its obvious it is coming here. It’s a matter of time to when we switch the light on?
Can you give us an indication on when that will be for the UAE?
It should be really within…not too long to go with that. It’s still going through some testing, we are engaging in discussion with the carriers etc. We have a few steps to finish up before we turn it on. So, like I said we turned it so you know it’s working here and we went through some testing and are now working on some things to make sure we have covered all the bases. We have a large base of consumers- the UAE is a big base for BlackBerry.
What about the Playbook? When will you officially launch the Playbook in the Middle East?
Today is the big day in the US for the Playbook. It’s targeted before the end of Q2 for this market.
Is Arabic supported on the device?
To start with, we support rendering of text but we are working for complete Arabic support in the next software releases. So to start with we will be able to browse in Arabic and you will be able to bridge and see you email in Arabic or BBM in Arabic.
Have you been working with developers across the region for PlayBook?
Yes, as a matter of fact we have been working with developers because we are obviously looking to enhance and localize some of the offerings that are available to the market here. So, some developers have been exposed to that in developing applications.
There is many developers globally as well who have been developing- there are over 3000 application submitted for the Playbook. I don’t know the exact number but there has been over 3000 submissions. And then we have been working with developers here as well for local flavor on the apps be it entertainment, gaming religious, planning application, travel, , touring etc.
Do you expect the PlayBook to compete well with the iPad in the region or are you targeting at a different sector- you’ve mentioned that the PlayBook being part corporate and part fun?
No, really to be quite honest I won’t say we are only here to compete. This is part of our strategy within RIM- to bring the tablet. And we are not just bringing one tablet, this is a road map. Like we announced, we will bring in the 4G, the LTE, the HSDPA version. So this is a line of products we are going to continue to bring. The difference here is that we are bringing this built on the success of the smartphone.
So this is complimenting your existing experience in a bigger screen, a bigger keyboard etc to be able to have the full fledged experience. It is unique in that and given that we have the QNX OS which is very reliable, very robust and very developer friendly. We have an edge there. The multitasking experience you have with us- it’s a true multitasking experience. You can run as many applications as you want- nothing gets interrupted, nothing gets paused, everything continues to run in the background. That’s another edge we have.
Finally, we are giving you the true full fledged flash support. With over three million flash applications and many many developers you are taking your playbook to the Internet rather than bringing the Internet (with a limited experience) to your Playbook. And lets not forget that we have lately announced support for Java and Android applications as well.
I’d like to thank Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule and talking to us.