In perhaps its most aggressive attempt to gain ground on rivals Apple and Google, Research In Motion Ltd. is launching its own version of an advertising network, designed to give developers a bigger revenue stream and users access to ad-supported apps.
RIM has partnered with five ad networks to create an inventory of ads for developers. The strategy aims to put RIM on equal footing with Apple Inc. and Google Inc., which have both purchased ad network firms in the past.
Ads are particularly useful for smart phone companies because, in some ways, they encourage both users and developers - the former can access for free apps for which they would otherwise have to pay, and the latter can make money off their applications. According to RIM, 60 per cent of all revenue from the new ad service will go back to developers.
RIM is also building another service that allows developers to design in-app payment services. The new tool comes after RIM struck a deal with AT&T to allow customers to purchase products from the BlackBerry applications store and have the purchases automatically charged to their carrier bills.
The ad network announcement is one of a slew of new features RIM revealed at the kick-off of its developer conference. The company is also moving to leverage its biggest success in the consumer market, the BlackBerry Messenger app.
According to RIM, 28 million people currently use BBM, with an additional 1.5 million new users every month. RIM is launching what it describes as a "social platform" that let's developers integrate their apps with BBM to create social apps that use the service to run everything from multimedia to gaming.
RIM has frequently been criticized for falling behind rivals in the app race. The BlackBerry App World marketplace contains far fewer apps than Apple's app store or the similar marketplace for apps designed for Google's Android operating system. Clearly cognizant of these challenges, RIM is pushing hard for more apps. Indeed the company also announced Monday it is waiving all fees associated with submitting apps to the BlackBerry online marketplace.