Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blackberry App World

With the launch of the main Web site for BlackBerry's new mobile application store, dubbed BlackBerry App World, going live on Wednesday, BlackBerry users are getting a glimpse into just how much applications are going to cost for their smartphones.

App World is BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.'s answer to Apple's widely popular iPhone AppStore and Google Android's Android Market. App World is a storefront where BlackBerry users can buy applications to run on their smartphones. It also acts as a portal where application developers can submit their applications.

BlackBerry said that applications will be available sometime this month, not citing a specific date. However, the FAQ section of the App World site sheds light on just how much BlackBerry users will have to plunk down for apps.

According to BlackBerry, the store will offer free applications. From there, applications jump to $2.99 and increase in $1 increments up to $19.99. The cost of applications increases in $10 increments from $19.99 to $99.99; $50 increments from $99.99 to $599.99; and $100 increments from $599.99 to $999.99, where the pricing model maxes out.

While applications are not yet available, the pricing model lacks the ever-important 99 cent and $1.99 price points, meaning applications bought through BlackBerry's App World will start at a higher cost than in competing application stores like Android Market and Apple's AppStore.

In the case of Android, which just started offering paid applications last month, the majority of applications are free, and paid applications hover between the 99 cent to $2.99 price point, with the occasional application hitting $10 or $20 and, in very rare instances, reaching above $100.

Same goes for Apple's AppStore. The iTunes-based store offers applications for free and for a fee, many of which start at 99 cents and don't stray too far above $10, except for some premium applications.

While BlackBerry said its pricing tiers are subject to change, the pricing model could hurt the fledgling application store, when competitors offer a lower starting point for applications.

So why is RIM ignoring a lower-cost price point and putting a higher premium on its applications?

That's anyone's guess. It could be that BlackBerry hopes to avoid the criticism received by the AppStore and Android Market that many of its lower-priced and free applications are relatively useless and disposable after a few uses. It could also be that RIM wants to ensure that the majority of applications that make it into App World are enterprise-focused, catering to a different market. Lastly, the higher starting price could be the result of developer pressure, concerned that if applications are priced at 99 cents, they will have to price their applications lower to get noticed.

Regardless of the reasoning, BlackBerry users are likely to be a little more cautious than iPhone users on which applications they ultimately spend their money on. And one thing's for sure: There will be some kind of outcry if a BlackBerry App World application launches for $2.99 and that same application is available for less than a buck in the AppStore and Android Market.