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From Apps to “Super Apps”: RIM focuses on Quality not Quantity

by Andrew Brown | 7月 14, 2010

With so much noise surrounding the sheer number of applications in Apple’s App Store, as well as the ramping of content on Android Market, it has been refreshing to hear more from RIM recently about quality not quantity of applications.

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To get this message across, RIM announced the concept of “Super Apps”. Although I am not especially keen on the name, it was absolutely necessary to look at how people use applications and how they should be integrated into the operating environment to offer the richest, most complete user experience, that sits squarely with RIM’s philosophy of offering the richest most integrated user experience available.

Which of course leads to the question “what is a super app?”. According to RIM, a super app must:

    1. Offer an “Always-on” Experience: BlackBerry OS allows multitasking, with the idea that a super app can run in the background and even start up automatically with no user action required. This allows for much of the apps work to happen seamlessly, without an app chugging away in the foreground.
    2. Tight Integration with Native Apps: The key to the BlackBerry experience is the simplicity, especially core functions such as inbox, calendar, address book, phone as well as camera and browser. RIM’s API frameworks allow developers to include menu/drop-down items into these core functions, reducing the need to constantly switch between applications, integrating seamlessly with the native app experience
    3. Proactive and Notification-driven: RIM’s push infrastructure allows for apps to proactively  notify a user of the right information at the right time. They can notify the user in many ways when a certain event occurs or relevant data arrives to the device
    4. Highly Contextualized: Utilising RIM’s location APIs allows for app development that is relevant and contextual utilising not only GPS, but cell site location and geo-coding as well as deeply integrated.
    5. Social and Connected Allows for integration of third party apps into the email, SMS, MMS or chat clients to enable users to share content from your apps with others in their address book
    6. Designed for Efficiency: A core part of RIM’s ethos is efficiency, offered through and end-to-end architecture that is optimized for “always-on environments”. Super Apps should be built with efficiency and scalability in mind.

In many ways, super apps highlight how RIM has opened up more APIs and services, as well as improving tooling resources for developers. The new services go much deeper than before, and offer major opportunities to integrate apps with native functions (such as the email inbox), as well as with payment and advertising functions among others.

It has already been shown how users will pay for richer, more deeply integrated applications: iPhone Users Install Most Applications but BlackBerry Owners Pay for More

Mobile enterprise applications will also benefit dramatically from the deep integration into core functions and resolve the major issues of certain types of applications (especially CRM) behaving “in an offline state”. Oracle demonstrated how healthcare workflow applications can benefit from this level of integration on a BlackBerry, and the results were impressive.

Ultimately, it is about time another OEM (Nokia excluded) started talking about rich, deeply integrated experiences, rather than focusing on sheer app volumes in “app silos”. Surely one deeply integrated, rich application that is genuinely useful holds sway over 200 apps that lack any rich integration whatsoever?

Andrew Brown

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