Toronto firm to bring 100 apps to PlayBook

Toronto-based Polar Mobile Inc. has reached a deal with Research In Motion Ltd. to build at “least 100 apps” for the soon-to-be-released PlayBook tablet.

Polar CEO Kunal Gupta said the move is part of the company’s larger goal of supporting the tablet form factor, as the development firm plans to launch its apps on multiple tablet platforms in the near future. The RIM deal itself will see Polar bring a good portion of its popular newspaper and magazine apps to the new platform by July.

“For the next couple months, consumers are going to be taking a back seat to watch this market,” Gupta said.

With a whole slew of tablets set to flood store shelves over the next few months, he said, Polar has decided to take its time in bringing the PlayBook apps to market as opposed to launching on the device’s April 19 release date.

Last October, Polar struck a similar deal with Microsoft Corp. to help bolster the Redmond, Wash., giant’s Windows Phone 7 app needs. As part of the agreement, Polar agreed to port over its entire 500-plus app portfolio to Microsoft’s OS.

Polar’s existing clients are comprised of a couple dozen high-profile media and entertainment properties including the Canadian Football League, Maclean’s, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The company has been able to expand quickly over the last year due to the fact that it uses a template model to build apps, as opposed to developing completely new custom apps for each client.

As for how the PlayBook will compete with its Apple Inc. rival, Gupta said, greater portability could actually be RIM’s biggest advantage.

While the PlayBook’s 7-inch form factor is smaller than the iPad, the device is ideal for “on-the-go” content consumption, he said.

“A user will be referencing a 7-inch device more frequently, and for shorter periods of time, than a 10-inch device,” Gupta said, adding that the use case could help sell the PlayBook as a business device. He said the device is well suited to consuming short, real-time updates.

Polar’s commitment comes just one week after RIM officially announced that PlayBook users will be able to run Android and Java apps on the tablet. The lack of apps — especially when compared to the Android and iOS ecosystems — has been a lingering issue for RIM over the last several years.

The Android and Java support “completely takes the apps question off the table,” said Chris Hazelton, an analyst with The 451 Group.

– With files from Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

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