RIM’s business philosophy has long placed a high premium on carrier relationships, and the launch of the BlackBerry mobile store wasn’t supposed to be a departure from that, as RIM took careful pains to let each carrier have their own, customized front, if they so choose. But I wonder if the launch will ultimately be a boon or bust for the carriers involved.
Today, getting access to BlackBerry services requires an extra subscription fee, part of which is kicked over to carriers, and it would appear that some popular features — such as WiFi or unfettered GPS access — have previously been quietly left out at carriers’ requests. But while RIM was careful to launch the store with a bevy of paid business tools, “free” may still be the only price most customers are really interested in, which means double trouble if those apps drive up bandwidth consumption without adding revenue, even if carriers do manage to get a cut of at least a portion of paid apps.
I’ve been informally tracking the most popular downloads at the BlackBerry App World, and have yet to see (I may have missed one or two) a paid app crack the top 25.
Even more worrying? A good number of the top downloads are major wireless bandwidth hogs: Streaming music like Slacker Radio or Pandora (a personal favorite), or even worse, a YouTube video player. While these applications boost customer satisfaction, they don’t add a dime of revenue even as they increase the bandwidth an individual user might take up. Remember, while the iPhone has been the darling of AT&T’s customer growth, it came at the price of the mixed blessing of much, much higher data usage.