RIM's BlackBerry App World Eases Adding Smartphone Software
Imitation is a good thing in the software business, provided people copy the right ideas. So I'm glad to see Research In Motion shamelessly following the lead of Apple by providing its own version of the simple, smart App Store Apple added to the iPhone and iPod touch last year.
Today's column assesses RIM's effort, the BlackBerry App World (as tested on the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm I reviewed in December). I can't rank App World up there with the App Store, or with the equally elegant Android Market built into phones running Google's Android operating system; although RIM's grasp of good user-interface design has advanced immensely compared to a few years ago, the company continues to miss some finer points. But App World still represents a big advance over the old way of adding software to a BlackBerry, much less the atrociously bad approach of Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
Assuming more developers bring their BlackBerry software into App World -- note that the App Store didn't stock too many programs at first -- and that App World itself eventually comes pre-installed on new BlackBerry phones, this system can only keep getting better.
That's about the same conclusion other reviewers seem to have drawn so far. See, for example, the first-impressions evaluation by the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and mocoNews.net's comparison of the BlackBerry, iPhone and Android app stores.
My review ends with a short rant about how bad the process of installing programs on Windows looks compared to even a system with App World's foibles (Mac OS X doesn't include an app-store system either, but at least it rarely requires you to run an installer or an uninstaller).
In an earlier draft of the piece, I went on to list a couple of successful app-store solutions for desktop computers. (I couldn't make that part fit with the rest of the print column and wound up taking it out, knowing that I could include it here.) One is Google's Google Pack of Windows Internet tools, which I complimented back in 2006. The other isn't available for Windows users but offers access to almost every program available on its operating system. That would be the simple application catalogue provided in the free, open-source Ubuntu Linux -- just updated to version 9.04 -- which connects you to an online repository of free add-on programs, complete with zero-to-five-star user ratings, through which you can search or browse.
But if an equivalent to App World is technically possible for Windows applications, it may be politically improbable. The companies best positioned to provide this kind of service -- the name-brand vendors of desktop and laptop computers -- have spent years overloading new home computers with unwanted, unneeded "bundleware." Would you trust those companies to provide an optional gateway to third-party software? If not them, what other parties would you want to see offer such a service? Let me know in the comments.
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