End to sideloading causes uproar among RIM devotees

Word that Research In Motion soon won’t allow owners of its PlayBook tablet to convert – or sideload — unapproved Android apps to run on the device caused an uproar on the weekend among certain passionate owners of the device.

Since the first tweet went up last Wednesday on CrackBerry.com, there have been 318 posts on the topic, some expressing outrage and vowing to ditch their PlayBooks if sideloading is blocked.

It’s a tough call for RIM: On the one hand it wants to attract developers, who prefer to write for the larger Apple iOS and Android audience. On the other, it doesn’t want to look like its trying to create a closed application market.
A poll started Sunday has 48 against ending sideloading, 36 in favour and 32 saying it should continue until PlayBook subscribers have a good selection of Android apps.
Sideloading allows PlayBook users to have applications that aren’t written natively for RIM’s tablet. There’s a long list including Netflix, Skype and Kindle.
PlayBook’s recent OS 2.0 upgrade allows approved Android apps to be available through BlackBerry AppWorld. PlayBook owners had been waiting months to see a flood of Android apps written for PlayBook to suddenly appear, but developers have been slow to convert their products.
Apparently RIM wants to end the ability to sideload in the next operating system upgrade as a way to entice Android developers to port their apps. As RIM VP of developer relations Alec Saunders tweeted last Thursday,“piracy is a huge problem for Android devs, and we don't want to duplicate the chaotic cesspool of Android market.”
The response was immediate. Below are a few snippets from the debate on CrackBerry.com. Click here for the full thread.
–“I think anyone who doesn't sideload at this time is missing the boat big time,” wrote Michel Souris. “It makes the PB into a real tablet and fun to use. Current apps on the App World are pale imitations of the richness of variety in the Android Market and similar. Without sideloading the PB is the worst tablet in the world. Period. “
–“I refuse to jump ship,” wrote DAnklaud, “but they are making me “walk the plank” with this behavior.
–“As a developer I think it's bad for eco-system because it’s another problem to the developer wanting to quickly test things (especially while working on many devices),” wrote a poster with the name Magnesus. “I often put my Android apps on Dropbox to quickly test it on all my Android devices without connecting every one of them. Without sideloading it would be pain in the you-know-what. But I'm only a small developer, I don't know what others think.
–“Unless RIM can convince devs and help speed up the process of porting android apps and the likes to the PB, they stand no chance in this market (both smartphone and tab) and when/if they disable side loading,” wrote SumthinNew.
–“The problem is that as long as sideloading can freely be done by anyone, native PlayBook apps can be pirated with effectively no effort at all,” wrote peter9477. “There are many leading PlayBook apps which have lost probably thousands of dollars in sales because of piracy, and RIM is taking steps to help protect their developers from that.
— “This discussion has been around for a while,” said conix67. I firmly believe disabling side loading does benefit developers in general, and a totally necessary move when RIM is trying to make PB/BB10 more attractive platform for developers. Developers want that security when investing in PB/BB10 platform. Making their work easily pirated won't encourage them at all. More developers = more apps => benefit to consumers.”
I hope to be at BlackBerry World in Orlando at the end of this month, when I’m sure this will come up.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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