App Development in 2013 – Is BlackBerry 10 Worth the Risk?

2012 was a slow year for me as a developer. This is primarily because any app development I do comes after my family and my day job, both of which required some extra attention over the past year. We were blessed with the arrival of our new baby girl, a move from Austin, Texas to Menlo Park, CA in May, and a new role at work. I also attempted a less than successful transition from webOS to iOS development, which killed my excitement for building apps at the time.

I find myself itching to get back in the game for 2013.

A Little Luck in the Past – webOS

Back in the heyday of webOS I won two $10k prizes in the Palm Hot Apps contests, which is ridiculous. I say this, because my two apps were Emoticons Free and Fart Bomb!. I placed in the first Hot Apps contest by accident when I created Emoticons Free. I just got lucky as it turns out people love emoticons. The next time around was deliberate when Palm created a second “PDK” contest for apps built on their C++ framework instead of JavaScript. Initially, I was not going to spend the time learning a second framework targeted at hardware accelerated graphics and other complex apps… until I saw that there we not enough entries to fill out the top 25 spots. So, I decided to make something people would download (you won based on downloads)… a free fart app, bingo… but I don’t know how to do graphics… ok, just play a fart noise after 30 seconds and call it Fart Bomb! I placed in the top 10 again, winning another $10k.

In addition to the Hot Apps contests, I was making ~$1k each month on webOS apps for about a year. Today, the nearly dead platform has a similar revenue stream, yielding only a hundred bucks or so every few months.

No So Lucking Moving to iOS with Appcelerator

When it was clear that webOS was on the way out, I started looking into making the transition to iOS development. This would require learning Objective C and a new framework. I really just wanted to get something simple out quickly, so I landed on Appcelerator. This freemium tool enables you to create “native” iOS apps with JavaScript (same language I had been using on webOS). Pretty cool. After some experimenting, I had the idea to create Phone Addict.

Thinking it was extremely clever and certain it would succeed, I spent several weeks developing it and getting it just right for this untapped market. A market from which I extracted less than $100 before making the app free. This is when I realized that many of my apps on webOS got traction, simply because they showed up in the “What’s New” feed for a couple days and the ~2 million Palm Pre owners happened to frequent that section in the app catalog. On iOS, you have thousands of new apps each day. You are immediately buried in a sea of nearly a million apps.

So, I quit. My $99 iOS Developer Membership expired and I decided not to renew it.

Is BlackBerry 10 the next webOS?

For 2013, I have a few options

  1. Learn how to market iOS apps and compete in that bloody ocean. Maybe learn Objective C.
  2. Take a chance that RIM will provide a platform with enough users and few developers/apps
  3. Develop for Android… for some reason this option is not attractive to me

A quick peak at makes it look like I could leverage some existing, but rusty, C/C++ skills or web dev tools. Learning the tool chain and their API framework would be the heavy lifting of course.

By “the next webOS”, I mean will there be so few apps that creating a hit will be worth the time sink in a possibly dead platform?

Ramping up on a new platform is a pain, but spending time developing apps that no one ever finds is not so stellar either. Not sure what I will do yet. What do you think?

On a related note, here is an entertaining graphic about the downfall of RIM that someone shared with me (click the image for the source).

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