BlackBerry Moves Closer To Mainstream With App World

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Research In Motion (RIM) on Wednesday launched its highly anticipated BlackBerry App World. Following on the trail of other smartphone vendors, App World is a one-stop, on-device client where users can browse, buy and download applications for their BlackBerry handhelds.

With this step, RIM moves closer to evolving the smartphone line from a business-oriented tool to a multifunctional, mainstream gadget. Of course there has always been (and will continue to be) third-party applications available for BlackBerries but, with App World, RIM is trying to leverage its reputation and name recognition (and get a piece of the payout along the way).

After downloading the application onto our BlackBerry Storm (which was released last year with the expectation of the upcoming, then unnamed App World), we were pleased to find an easy to navigate group of programs.

There is a Featured Apps section that displays a single offering on the screen and allows the user to scroll left and right through the list of approximately 15 titles. The main "storefront" is a menu of different categories such as Games, Travel, Entertainment, etc.

Within each category, the programs are listed with their icons and star-ratings (based on user reviews). When an application is selected, there is a short description, including price, and buttons to see screenshots and read reviews, as well as download the product.

In a slight departure from competitors, RIM decided to use PayPal for payments. This will probably not be much of a deterrent for the Internet-savvy, but may alienate some of the company's more stodgy corporate users. There are reports that RIM is negotiating with carriers to allow customers to charge purchases to their phone bills in lieu of using PayPal.

During our browsing we saw many familiar applications, and a few new ones. There also were some well-known programs making their debut on the BlackBerry. Application prices ranged from free to $199, with most falling into the $3 to $5 window.

Although RIM is planning to market the BlackBerry as a music device, as of now it has no intentions of starting a music storefront like some of its competitors.

Ultimately, much of App World's success will depend on the third-party developers who choose to sell their creations within it. It'll take some catch-up, as there already are some well-established BlackBerry-focused storefronts out there, but with RIM's clout behind it, App World stands a good chance.

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