Be the BlackBerry

Launched this week by RIM, Built For BlackBerry is a repository of all the freeware, shareware and for-purchase applications that could make the smartphone smarter.

If you were the kind of business manager who decides to buy a BlackBerry, you'd probably start with the Research In Motion homepage, or better yet, That's where you'd find out about the models, the features, the pricing and where to buy. And yet, over time, the "Built For BlackBerry" site may become far more important.

Launched this week by RIM, Built For BlackBerry is a repository of all the freeware, shareware and for-purchase applications that could make the smartphone smarter. It demonstrates two things about this market: that a hardware player's success depends entirely on the kind of software community it can attract, and that educating non-IT execs is going to become critical for their go-to-market strategies.

When RIM launched the BlackBerry, they were purchased by CIOs and people who understood the power of e-mail and ways to connect it with their corporate network. Now that the installed base is open to everyone from CEOs to consumers, RIM has to do a lot more work to fill in the blanks. Built For BlackBerry is a part of that process.

Weird, then, that when you come to the homepage you see the following categories: News, Sports, Travel&Weather, Games&Entertainment, Lifestyle, Navigation&Mapping. "Imagine the possibilities," the home page reads breathlessly. "Book a flight. Check the headlines. Play a game of poker. Get where you're going with ease. All on your BlackBerry smartphone."

There's nary a mention of a business use for these devices, which is odd when you consider how many people probably begin their BlackBerry experience with a business purpose in mind. Like a lot of companies, RIM is still separating its customers between the commercial and consumer arenas, not acknowledging that work and personal time is blurring rapidly. If Built For BlackBerry was aimed more directly at those business users, they might realize there is even greater potential to keep those users' thumbs busy.

Perhaps companies like RIM think that adding information about putting BI dashboards on your smart phone will look too complex next to the stuff about checking the weather. Or perhaps they're concerned that some of the business applications aren't mature enough yet to promote on something like Built For BlackBerry. Either way, the approach is a sound one, even if the site is somewhat incomplete.

Much like Facebook and other social networking sites that are showcasing the tools to enhance the core functionality, I expect to see variations on the Built For BlackBerry theme by other vendors. I'll even go one step further, and suggest that, much like the standard "About Us," "Contact Us," "Products" and "Services" menus, vendor Web sites should consider a consistent "Built For" tab that makes it easy for customers to figure out their products' potential. The old days of computing focused on WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get. The next era will focus on WDIDWTT -- What Do I Do With This Thing?

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Shane Schick
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