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RIM launches its own app store, for BlackBerry

April 1, 2009 | 12:13 pm

The App store is an attempt to make the BlackBerry even more fun. Credit: edans via Flickr.

RIM launched the much-anticipated BlackBerry App store at the CTIA Wireless 2009 trade show today. It's available to BlackBerry users who have models with a trackball or touch screen, meaning those with BlackBerrys with track wheels are out of luck.

The store will feature a top downloads section, keyword search functions and the ability to review apps and recommend them to friends, Research In Motion President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis announced this morning. RIM said it expected 1,000 apps to be posted this week, from brands such as Bloomberg, Pandora and Lonely Planet.

The app store is the company's latest effort to embrace customers outside its traditional business base. In November, RIM launched the Storm, a touch-screen device that mimics the iPhone, with the goal of stemming the flow of customers to Apple.

“The BlackBerry platform provides a truly unparalleled mobile experience for millions of people, and we are thrilled today to enhance that experience with a new app store that helps connect consumers with developers and carriers,” Lazaridis said in a release.

Frequent users of Apple's App store, however, might be disappointed with ...

... RIM's attempts to cool up the BlackBerry. First off, many users have been getting messages that their phone does not support the App store because RIM's download servers are overloaded. Second, the scrolling screen isn't as handy as Apple's: It's a bit difficult to see more than one app at a time.

And third, and perhaps most important, there isn't a whole lot for free. In the featured apps section (which also recommends the ancient instant messaging program ICQ), poker game Texas Hold'Em King costs $5.99, while Guitar Hero costs $11.99. Most of the games in the Puzzle and Mindteasers section were $4.99 and up. Contrast that with Apple's App store, where you can get games, levels and even books for free.

RIM is still holding onto its business roots with the store: One of the 15 items in the featured apps section is Worldmate Live, which calls itself the world's leading service for business travelers.

RIM's other co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, said today that RIM planned "to continue delivering the types of apps that best suit our customers’ personalized needs and interests.” But it makes you wonder, who are those customers and what are their needs? Is RIM really ready to abandon its business roots to make it cheap and easy for users to download fun apps? Or is it still counting on high-powered execs to download serious apps and expense the rest?

-- Alana Semuels