Thanks for the Open Letter to RIM Developer Relations


Hi everyone: I’m Tyler Lessard from RIM. I head up our BlackBerry Developer Relations and Developer Programs team. I wanted to take a moment to provide some updates on our PlayBook developer tools, app submission process, and address some concerns that were raised in a blog post by mobile app developer Jamie Murai.

Jamie’s posting on Friday raised a number of challenges that he faced while getting started with development for the BlackBerry PlayBook and while registering to become a BlackBerry App World vendor. First off, I’d like to thank Jamie for his candid feedback. Suggestions like his are critical in helping us improve our products and processes. I want you to know that we are absolutely listening.

Our development teams here at RIM have been working hard to get our tools ready for PlayBook launch. While we’ve come a long way for a pre-release product, we know that we have a lot of work left to do to ensure that our developers can build and distribute apps without any hindering costs or painful download processes.

Jamie’s post covered various topics, including the process for registering for downloads, managing the install and configuration procedures on a Mac, and using the simulator tools. The concerns he described were completely fair – in fact, they include some of the priority items that we’ve been working to improve prior to our final gold release. So we’ve taken this feedback, along with other information we’re collecting from our dev community, and are prioritizing it as we continue to refine the platform and development process leading up to launch. One example that directly relates to Jamie’s feedback is that if you register an account on our Developer Zone web site, you can sign in with that account and download all of our tools without needing to re-enter your information several times. However, we’re going to work on improving the download steps for those of you who just want to get at the tools without registering an account. I apologize that this was overlooked up until now.

Jamie also discussed our current App World vendor process and posed some good questions. We are continuing to evolve this process and remain committed to ensuring developers can register and submit apps at no cost. We will also review the requirement to have a Notary as this has come up as a challenge for some members of our community recently. I’m grateful this was brought to our attention.

We will be making a concerted effort over the next few weeks to publish more information to help our developers be successful in developing for PlayBook. We will work hard to resolve the issues being raised by our community, and we will use our Inside BlackBerry Developer’s Blog and forums to update you as key improvements are made. For those of you who are having challenges getting started today, we’ll be providing some updated information on our site to help you understand exactly what steps you need to take to get up and running with the latest Beta tools. We’ll also be providing more and more practical tips and best practices – from RIM and from PlayBook developers — to ensure you’re able to get going as quickly as possible. Stay tuned for further updates on this.

I want to thank Jamie and all of our developers for their open partnership. We look forward to working with our community to get better every day. Please continue to use our developer forums to ask questions, to provide feedback, and to share your experiences with us.


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  • Ericfode

    kudos for actually doing something about what your community asked, it is rare that a company cares about its devs any more.

    • unhappy developer

      except for android, microsoft and apple delivering a better experience. rim can listen as hard as they like but if the experience is not as good, then they are not actually delivering.

      reading platitudes from corporate entities helps the development proces… how?

  • Gerald Buckley

    Tyler – Thanks to you guys for taking public ownership of the situation. This was exactly the right way to address Jamie’s open letter. Look forward to “seeing” you in the forums as one of your newer developers.

  • Anonymous

    Dude, no way man that is just way too cool

  • kyle

    Cool! I’ve been looking forward to see how the developer’s api are evolving. I’ve owned a blackberry and I’ve been impressed so far with the results. The UI is very straightforward compared to Android and iPhone without the flashy features. Will be buying a playbook when it was released and learn to use the developer stuff on it to create my own application

  • Brad

    Reactive response. Out in the open. This is not the way to run a developer program. All of Jamie’s concerns would have been obvious to anyone talking to a real smartphone developer. It defies credibility to suggest RIMM themselves wouldn’t know these things. You’ve rushed a product to market and you’re just not ready yet. Work work work, get the real thing done asap. Otherwise the word of mouth machine is going to write you off before you’ve had a chance to recover.

    We all need a strong RIMM. Please get on with what needs to be done

  • Charbax

    Android support?

    • ekke

      I also read about rumors that Playbook will run Dalvik on QNX and support Android in the future.
      the interesting thing then would be how all the exciting BB parts will be integrated:
      * security of platform
      * PushService SDK
      * AppWorld / Payment / Advertising SDK
      * perhaps a compatibility layer for Java Apps developed for BB SmartPhones

  • Jesse

    When reading Jamies post last night I was chuckling as I went along, this guy had the exact same experience as me. I wasn’t expecting the developer relations team to respond, and it’s great you did, but you’re not quite there yet. RIM has a reputation for making a lot of promises. API’s announced at devcon get everyone excited, but then aren’t released for 18 months, if at all.

    Apple is number one for a reason, and having an attitude of “RIM is the anti-apple” isn’t going to win the race. You need passionate employees. I can’t believe the number of RIM employees I run in to around town (waterloo) who just don’t care about the latest and greatest mobile technology. How many people at RIM know what NFC is? I dare you to ask.

    I really hope this gets sorted out! I just don’t know how many developers are going to be willing to give you a second / third and sometimes fourth chance. I will. Just once more. Let’s do it!

    • Anonymous

      RIM is already test-driving NFC with Bank of America. You should stay in the loop yourself.

      • Jesse

        Yes barrist, that is exactly my point. Everyone reading this blog is well aware of RIMs involvement with NFC.

        What I’m saying is go down the hall, talk to the guy at RIM in Marketing, or the girl in HR, or the team that works on the assembly line, or the front-line carrier support people and ask them if they know what NFC means. They most likely don’t, because they don’t care about the industry like you and I. They are just 9 to 5, live in the suburb folk.

        I’m not saying anything bad about these people. It’s an ideal way to live. It is however one of the reason RIM isn’t innovating.

      • Derek

        The point was not that nobody at RIM knows what NFC is, but that outside of the team working on it, nobody at RIM cares.

  • John

    So let me get this straight – if you send feedback via Beta programs and in the BB forums, you get ignored?

    But if you decide to write a whiney blog post that sarcastically outlines what others have said elsewhere then you get all the attention and told that it’s being sorted?

    I’m all for improving the tools and having a dialogue with developers, but I can’t help but feel somewhat let down by this random knee-jerk reaction.

    • Blah

      I knew this was coming…

  • Andy matthews

    Way to own it Blackberry. I applaud your efforts to make dev easier and to make a great product. Can’t wait to see the playbook.

  • Sherwin Sowy

    Being an iPhone developer, the initial stumbling block to me was the notarized letter. For Apple, all I needed was a U.S. tax identification number, which I got after just 1 phone call. No need to print anything, go off to a notary to have it notarized, scan it, and send it over.

    • Chris Adamson

      Apple’s not all sunshine and rainbows in this respect. To get a corporate membership, you have to fax them your articles of incorporation. And Apple wouldn’t convert my membership from individual to corporate because I’ve moved since incorporating my business (good thing for Apple that they’re still located in a garage in Palo Alto).

      • Sherwin Sowy

        I’m ok with faxing articles of incorporation, but converting from individual to corporate would be a problem if they won’t allow it! Well, maybe you can just remove your individual apps from the Appstore, then publish them again using your corporate identity?

  • ekke

    Hi Tyler,
    it’s great to see how open you answer to a critical blog – thats the right way !
    I also made the experiences that RIM is really listening to the developers.

    At the moment I’m not a PlayBook Developer because I’m waiting for the Java SDK to develop great Apps for a great product.

    Hopefully RIM isn’t only focused on PlayBook development and also will increase the process to develop Java Apps for the Smartphones ;-)
    I’m desperately waiting for Mac OSX Java SDK – not only a Beta. We really need Simulators on OSX, because debugging complex Apps directly on the device is way too slow. I gave up and still work using Parallels VM for Windows on OSX.

    Also – as an experienced developer – I wish the update site back to install the 1.3 PlugIn. Providing a full installer will help someone not familiar with Eclipse. I know many developers already developing for Android w Eclipse how astonished they are that there’s no updatesite to install the BlackBerry PlugIn.

    Next complex thing is using the Push Service SDK if you don’t want to use the technology stack provided by the PushServiceSDK. Took me much time to make it run. (Will blog about and publish the solution Open Source to help)

    It’s not always easy, but I like to develop BlackBerry Apps and I’m also presenting sessions and workshops at conferences to teach others how to develop for BlackBerry. One drawback here is the need to always sign Java Apps running in debugmode on a device. If there’s no WIFI, there’s no way to teach this and because attendees dont have signature keys they also cannot sign. would be great to have a sandbox-mode for testing / debugging…


    • Tyler Lessard

      Not to worry, we’re still making significant investments in our Smartphone platform! Not sure if you caught it, but we recently announced our forthcoming BlackBerry 6.1 SDK plans with new APIs for OpenGL ES 2.0, event-based geo-fencing, some relly cool new UI controls, support for magnetometer (digital compass), and more. Also, we’re getting close to opening up the BBM Social Platform APIs which will open up some really interesting app opportunities (I’m making it a point to think of a different use-case for the BBM platform API’s each day, and so far so good… :)

      • ekke

        features of 6.x SDK really sound great and I know that it’s possible to develop BlackBerry Apps looking really great (askBrian Zubert – I demonstrated some 5.0 Apps at DevCon).

        the missing things are from domain of tooling:
        * PlugIn on OSX full featured with simulators
        * 1.3 PlugIns from update site
        * build tools (official Ant, Hudson/Jenkins)
        * test-on-device without signing

        yes: BBM SDK is great and I have some Apps in mind where I can use it integrated and this will become a really great user experience.
        But it only works if all users are BB users. if customers are coming from different platforms then it doesn’t work, because you don’t reach them – would be great to have bridges into other worlds and also a desktop version so a sales people using this can work from desktop, smartphone, playbook…

        looking forward to a great future of BlackBerry Apps – I’m very satisfied – that’s why I’m promoting BlackBerry in my sessions and workshops at conferences

        …and I’m satisfied to see the direction RIM is going past months: openess to developers, first Open Source projects …

      • b17clear

        What about applying wallpapers to the Background? Will this be a possibility before launch? We have a successful copyrighted wallpaper application on another platform and wanted to expand the brand to the PlayBook, but now I’m finding out it may not be possible with the current SDK or before Launch. Even applying through the photo viewer seems easy enough.

  • James Moore

    I develop Android apps (and I’ve worked on iPhone in the past). Jamie’s post made it sound like you’re still in a fairly early alpha stage of supporting developers, and that’s what I get from your response too. Perhaps interesting to play with, but not ready for real work.

    But this?

    “We will also review the requirement to have a Notary as this has come up as a challenge for some members of our community recently. I’m grateful this was brought to our attention.”

    First, when I read Jamie’s bit, I assumed it was just hyperbole. The idea that you’d send people off to a notary is just laughable – there’s just no chance that it was a real policy. It’s just far too hostile.

    But you seem to be saying it’s real? I’m now thinking that your senior management people are actively opposed to creating a developer community. Not just indifferent, but they really, deeply don’t want it to happen.

    • Sam Mack

      It probably has something to do with RIM’s security requirements. There main business is built on being a very secure platform for communications. A lot of IT departments just don’t let you install apps on your Blackberry, but with a tablet that is less of an option.

    • Anonymous

      why is this a problem? I go by my bank at least once a week and they can do this. Most people in campus offices/bursars can do this. Having gone through this process, I agree its a lot slower to get started than, say, registering for a Student Developer package with iOS. However, I am hoping that this means the application approval is much more streamlined and less nebulous to developers. Again, this opinion may change after I actually submit the app and experience that part of the process. Personally, I am hoping the rest of the process proceeds smoothly, especially the free Playbook part!

      • Blah

        I am a developer from Germany. Maybe you can go to your bank in the states and let them do that, but I can’t. I went to my town hall in order to let them sign the appliciation, only to be sent off as they plainly refused to do so. ‘Anything official has to be in the official language of the country’, which is German. Does RIM/BB offer their documents oin German? No? Hm, what now? Up to now it took me a week back and forth, and I’m still not signed up. I can’t even start to imagine how it will be like for other countries e.g. thailand with their tallips or something. Also, what I don’t get is, you have to give them your PayPal account name anyway, which is in general already signed. Isn’t that enough prrof for them??

  • DROdio

    Tyler, should we be developing for RIM , or for Android?

  • killerspaz

    This is great! I just wrote up a rant about markets, and included Playbook/AppWorld in it… so glad to hear that RIM is listening to us! This is exactly what I was hoping for/expecting. Having said that, to me I think the market itself needs a focused lense to determine how its going to successfully compete with the existing markets without crufting up our app selections.

  • Tomas Sancio

    I’ve been through the process and while at it, the excitement of being able to port an AIR app designed for the desktop to a mobile device (even if it is yet unfinished), drowned the inconveniences of multiple downloads. The Blackberry brand is still very linked to businesses so if our software is finally ported to the Playbook, there are great chances that our clients will take it, making the $200 we’d have to pay to RIM pretty insignificant. The Blackberry Playbook doesn’t seem to be after the same iPad consumer market.

    However, making it easy to port desktop AIR apps to a mobile device has a drawback which is that they will have been designed for mouse and keyboards and much of the UI may have to be reconsidered to be used efficiently on a tablet.

    • Anonymous

      iPad is not just a consumer device. It is used in big corporations who make and deploy their own apps outside of App Store. Apple’s developer tools used to be enterprise-only. They were used to create the World Wide Web.

      $99 per year is enough. It is a token to keep out people who aren’t serious, and supports the sign up and download servers. RIM can’t ask more when they offer less. iPad developers can stick to iPad-only development. RIM has to expect to be the second (or third) platform for most developers for some time if not forever.

      The odd thing here is AIR. Isn’t the point of AIR that you can make an app for Windows and it will run on Mac and Linux also. Doesn’t it just run on PlayBook also? And if not, then what is the point? Open up a C API on PlayBook and make serious apps.

      • Douglas tr0n Soltys

        Hi Tomas/JohnDoey,

        We removed the $200 fee late last year. There were a few lingering references to it on the website, but these are being removed now.


    • Tyler Lessard

      We’re seeing a lot of Flash and AIR developers port over to PlayBook pretty quickly which is great to see. As you pointed up, apps will often “work” without any changes but you’ll often want to update/optimize them to better handle touch screen inputs rather than mouse events. We’ve worked with Adobe to bring extensive support for touch gestures into the AIR SDK and some other nice additions like Accelerometer support, Camera APIs, etc. At our Developer Conference 2010 when we announced the PlayBook, we also noted that we’ll be bringing a Native SDK platform with the ability to access custom Native libraries from AIR (or WebWorks) as well. Should open up lots of interesting opportunities for highly optimized and integrated PlayBook apps will killer performance!

  • ExDev

    The SDKs are way more rough around the edges for 64 bit Windows and for Macs than they are for 32 bit Windows systems. I am not sure why this is. Jamie was using a Mac, and there really shouldn’t have been a reason for how difficult it was to install. I was there in person to witness this.

    Before you attempt to say that it was all amateur hour, I’d also like to point out that I have worked at RIM before.

  • BillFoust

    Wow, and to think that Jamie gave up after ONLY trying to get the application deployed on the simulator. He gave up too soon! He missed all of the fun-frustration of trying to make a real application that used something simple-and-terribly-broken like file dialogs. Oh and how much fun you missed with the whole code-signing process!

    I have to agree with Jamie on many points. I chuckled as I recalled encountering much of the same confusion along the way. Even polished SDKs like the Java SDK for smartphones aren’t nearly as well done as they should be.

    It is great that Tyler responded, and so openly, but I agree with many other comments that this kind of reaction by new developers isn’t really anything new.

  • Matthias Marquardt

    When I recall correctly then on of the most applause of the audience at keynotes of DevCon09 was given when RIM announced that they will rework/improve the procedure for the tool downloads – so I am surprised RIM can’t remember this promise?

    Don’t get me wrong you changed a lot after DevCon09 – and for some time the DevSite was way more user friendly – but in the meanwhile it had changed back again (to the old style).

    But Jamie mentioned a way more serious issues then the “Download Zoo” – I am more then happy that RIM is willing to listen – on the other hand side there are so many different (independent) areas that you have to work on – for here and now I hope you will concentrate all your forces on the product itself – on the other hand side – a product without any apps is very difficult to promote.

    You have plenty of RIM (mental) associated developers (like me) who already went though all your processes (CodeSigningKey, AppWorld Registration and all that kind of things – most of us even had paid for all these steps in the past) – so honestly RIM why do you not make use of these existing developers?

    When do you finally tell us that your BlackBerry SmartPhone JavaVM will run on the PlayBook as well?

  • Billy

    That’s right, at Blackberry they’ll not only pull your app because it competes with a core service, but they’ll sue you as well.

    As for the rest of your comment, I appreciate that you feel strongly about a company you work for, but it’s clear Jamie made some valid points with his post. It would be wise for RIM to address them if they want to slow their inevitable decline into irrelevance.

    • biggerCC

      “a company you work for”… I’m quite sure that RIM does not even have a branch over here in Germany. In fact I’m a student and develop mobile apps as a hobby.
      If you check out my blog (perhaps with the help of Google Translate), you might find out that I’m far away from being a BB fanboy. I don’t even own one of their phones…

      I have no clue, if you tried developing with the given PlayBook tools. Consistent with my own experience, I heard no complaints from a couple of friends, which I told to try it out, too.
      Whatever mobile platform you develop for: it’s always about the same basic tools (IDE, debugger, emulator, signing-tool and often some driver-stuff for communicating with real devices). If you can’t live with that fact (or the fact that you need to download more than one file), you’d better stay away from mobile development anyway.

  • Moepecan

    Lol, all that jazz about helping developers make their apps easier and not a single word about why you’re charging over twice as much as the market leaders(Apple and Google). Seems like you would be more worried about getting the developers to give you the time of day than making a quick buck off of them.

    NEWS FLASH!!! People like things that are simple to use! People also like saving money! You have accomplished neither.

    • Tyler Lessard

      Just wanted to re-confirm that there is no cost to join App World and submit and distribute apps. We fully agree – there should be no cost barrier. The reference to the $200 was referring to old pricing that was removed entirely last year. That being said, we know we have work to do to make development simpler and more productive for our developers and this will be a top priority for this year. Keep the feedback coming as we release new tools and let us know what has improved and what still needs improvement.

  • JW

    Jamie’s post was spot on expect for one thing… he gave up without a fight, and frankly, is a lazy developer. Yes, he’s completely correct that the process is waaay too complicated and disjointed, at every stage, but let’s be honest with ourselves: this is pre-release software, access to it is completely free, and it all does work as advertised if you spend a few minutes figuring it out.

    Every single one of his complaints are *more* than legitimate, but his ultimate conclusion is shockingly ignorant of the realities of the situation (which is this: “figure it out, get a free Playbook!”), and shows a complete lack of motivation on his part. It also seems annoyingly entitled, as if he would be doing RIM a favor by developing an app for the Playbook, and is *owed* a smooth, one-button solution or else.

    By the way, I develop using Flash Professional (which is largely undocumented) and had to work with the command line, and *I* managed to work out a one-button solution, thanks to some simple moxie, and the support of other developers on the forums. It’s not that hard to figure it out, people.

    Keep in mind, too, that he only tried to put the “sample” app on the simulator, and didn’t actually develop anything himself. When you have your own code at stake, you try a little harder to make it work, I think. Although, thank God he didn’t get to the code signing part of the process!

    (Also, Apple charges $99/year, per year! And with their constantly shifting policies, uncompetitive behavior, and opaque approval process, they’ve become so developer-hostile that it makes me wanna puke.)

    • Fil Maj

      JW, if developers aren’t *given* a smooth transition and simple process for the * privilege* of submitting applications to a platform, they won’t do it. Simple. This is the reason the App World has the number of apps compared to the Android Market or iPhone App Store – orders of magnitudes less than their competitors.

      BlackBerry may have smartphone market share that is (barely) comparable to Android and iOS, but the developer mindshare is not even close. The post that RIM responded to is the attitude of *countless* mobile developers that I have talked to and worked with in the past.

    • Tony

      You’re kidding, right? I mean this is sarcasm?

    • Chamoen

      Mobile Devs are entitled – because there are so many alternatives. It’s up to the hw/sw vendors to encourage them.

      The current process is a classic “make the user fit our company” rather than “make our company fit the user.” And yes, developers are a user. Decisions like $200/10 apps are so often made by people who are just completely out of touch with the market. The nights & weekends developer who is cranking out dozens of apps hoping one becomes the killer app is penalized?

      When I can get both iOS dev tools and Android dev tools up and running in significantly less time than playbook dev tools, why should I both? To get 1 free device? Not worth it.

    • Chadbag

      I am an iOS developer and I don’t feel that Apple is developer hostile at all.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of “we will” but no “we have.”

  • Anonymous

    Is this page supposed to have dark gray text on black? It is totally unreadable. How can a BlackBerry page not work in WebKit browsers?

    • Chadbag

      Exactly. Very herd to read in my iPad in landscape mode. Most blogs I can read on my iPhone in portrait mode.

  • Anonymous

    Tyler – commendable way of handling this. I signed on as a developer recently and I agree it’s weird to ask for a notarized document from an individual (but I didn’t mind sending articles of incorporation since that simply means attaching a PDF). When I first saw that email from RIM asking me for one or the other, I said to myself, “Good thing I’ve got a corp or I might not bother”.

    I also thought Jamie’s post raised a lot of fair points and I was worried RIM might not fully listen. I’m glad my worries were unfounded!


  • Anonymous

    There are no excuses in Baseball. You hit the ball or you don’t.

    • Msmcclary3

      Perfect and succinct reply!

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