RIM CEO: You Don’t Need an App for the Web


At the recent Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie expressed his thoughts on the current app-centric model that exists in the smartphone era. Here are some interesting highlights from what he had to say:

“You don’t need an app for the Web,”

“We believe you can bring the mobile to the Web, but you don’t need to go through some kind of control point.”

“It is really not about a set of proprietary rules or about appifying the Web,”

“The Web needs a platform that allows you to use your existing Web content, not apps.”

He predicted that the era of smartphone applications would “pass real quick.”

When asked what he would say to Jobs if Apple’s iconic pitchman were to appear at the Summit, Balsillie replied his first comment would be “You showed up.

Maybe Balsillie is still angry from being called out by Steve Jobs during a recent Apple Q4 Conference Call (Jobs said RIM has a ‘high mountain to climb ahead of them‘), but the app-centric  model is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. The web was built for computer browsers, not for tiny smartphone screens. Apps make accessing websites easier to use.

Have you tried viewing a normal web page on a Blackberry browser? It’s downright painful. Even on Mobile Safari some websites can be difficult to access. Apps change that. Compare Facebook on the web versus the Facebook iPhone app. The two experiences are vastly different.

Is Balsillie trying to downplay the purpose of apps, because RIM is so far behind? If apps aren’t the way of the future, what is the alternative solution? Balsillie is probably trying to get into the limelight to hype up the PlayBook even more. RIM’s 7″ tablet is slated to be released in the Spring of 2011, and will run Flash. By the time the PlayBook is out, it will already be overshadowed by competitor tablets and most likely iPad 2.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Balsillie that the app era will soon come to an end?



  • Anonymous

    Like the iPhone in Canada web app shortcut link thing…. Vs viewing it through Safari. Same thing to me

    Some sites it makes a difference but most of the ones I use are just the same as viewing in mobile safari

  • Jon Kostyniuk

    As much as I’d love to support a Canadian company such as RIM, I feel their peak has come and gone. With the variety of smartphones in the market nowadays (including the iPhone), the Blackberry has gone from being the only player to being flooded by competitors. RIM became comfortable (and stagnant) in its niche market and now they’re trying to play catch up!

    I feel the only way back up is to innovate once again. Or is the Blackberry inching closer to death?

  • Karan

    RIM Jim has a point. With 5 competing mobile platforms, I’m starting to see the issues with Apps and their lack of portability across them. Smartphones are just really launching to mainstream audiences and once they are comoditized, people aren’t going to want to be locked in or distinguish which platform they’ve previously bought and used apps on. I’m increasingly looking at better mobile sites rather than apps.

    You mention FB … they are themselves showing they don’t want to invest in native apps and looking to improve their mobile browser experience. That is why do date you still don’t see them launching an iPad app. It’s not a hard thing for them to do if they wanted to,

  • ward09

    For me, it’s all about the apps baby! I’ll probably get my first ever Max in 2011, becasue the Mac App Store. Besides, there are so many apps that have nothing to do with the web or viewing webcontent.

  • ward09

    …first ever Mac, that is.

  • Robert_tj_graves

    While I think there is a need for apps, the app store has certainly been filled with apps that could just as easily be accessible from a smartphone optimized web site. I believe Steve Jobs said that there isn’t a need for an app store originally because we can write apps for the web.

    The advantage to the app store is that it gives you a way to promote your tool easily rather than just posting it to the web. Plus, because the app store has been so successful, I suspect people are use to downloading apps rather than bookmarking a web site. The organization I work for recently launched an iPhone app and a mobile web site – both of which are virtually identical. Why’d they do both instead of just a mobile web site – because the iPhone users they talked to knew how to download an app, but many didn’t know how to add a bookmark to their homescreen.

  • Privacy

    And again every competitor out there is pitching his device against a 7 month old device (let’s take a real date when real people could buy it) as their benchmark. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, the PlayBook… At least Samsung has a real product you can buy (and a nice one). RIM has, well, nothing.

    We all know better; the iPad 2 is most probably currently in field test and I bet Apple will undercut their rivals by providing more at the same price point. They might even drop prices by 50$ to make a statement here (“competitors cost more for less”). The iPad 2 will have cameras, Facetime, I would expect much more RAM and a faster CPU. And I also bet on Q1 2011 release.

  • Laserheart

    I couldn’t disagree with him more.

    In fact, apps are the main reason that people are loving their iPads and iPhones. They allow for both fully functional apps like games, as well as customized “web apps” that take advantage of the phone/pad’s unique features.

    Most of the apps I use are ones that make use of multi-touch interfaces, and graphical interfaces that are not yet possible on the web.

    If and when the web supports multi-touch and customized device dependance, then I think we MAY see a transition away from the unique apps.

    I still like having an icon on my phone to access each of the most common sites I visit on the web.

    Isn’t a website an app?

    Also, wouldn’t you too like a browsable list of all of the websites on the Internet categorized and summarized in short descriptions? There really should be a universal repository of websites… hmmm, wait, isn’t that what Google, Bing and Yahoo already are?

    I think the RIM guy is a bit in the dark, and not understanding the true power of small things. Maybe he hasn’t had enough exposure to a properly designed app store? Has he even tried the iPhone or the iPad to see what all of the hoopla is about?

  • rufi

    We can compare gmail mobile web site vs reading your emails in your iphone (natively). I think we will see both apps (web and native) for a while, because they complement each other to some point. E.g. you need some basic functionality on your smartphone and you don’t always have access to the internet (bandwidth cost money). Not sure how an “offline ” web app would work (other than being supported by a “native” app to do the offline part). You can interact with a web app on several platforms (maybe it will cost less soon), but if you need to do serious 3D/graphics or access to hardware resources, native apps are needed. I think in some time, we might see web apps which directly interact with OS/resources, however, like flash for instance. In that case, it would require better security and cheaper internet/data only wireless plans, which will take some time to happen (especially worldwide) I guess. Another issue is that how many people want a lot of their personal data stored on remote servers, which web apps require (of course Google want that).

  • RIM’s offerings have been matched by competitors. I love supporting my fellow Canadians too, but when you churn out crap–it’s still crap. RIM = next Nortel?

  • Portability of apps to different platforms would be nice, but really that will never happen. It’s way too complicating, unless some sort of central distribution is setup. Devs are already making 3-4 versions of apps to meet the demands of all smartphones. Just look at WhatsApp, Kik, Ping, etc.

  • Wolfhawk

    I agree, I am having a problem with my iPhone, because I don’t always have the freedom to sync it to multiple computers. I think Apple should create a desktop version of the iPhone, kind of like the good old palm desktop, then they might have something, but currently making me use iTunes to access my smart phone, just seems like a quick fix to me. Yes it interfaces to the multimedia side of the phone, but it does not address a lot of the business side.

    Now take it one step further, I am at home and on my nice computer with a 22″ monitor. Why can’t I play games on my iphone while it is synced to that computer???? If we did switch to a web model, then a developer could create one game for every device.

    Steve took a step back in my opinion (A very profitable step back I might add), but wasn’t the web supposed to make things more open not create spaces that make it more closed off???

  • Mark

    Its not all Balsillie’s fault… he just needs to stop breathing in the air when the wind is blowing in from the Michigan area over Rim’s building’s

  • Karan

    In the long run that isn’t sustainable which is why you see Facebook not doing it with the iPad right now. Yes, the mobile app space is hot right now and it very well may continue to be, but I agree with Jim.

    With HTML 5 we may see a single version used across the mobile platforms … open better than closed IMHO.

  • bjc

    True, you don’t _need_ an app for the web. Does it make it a better experience? Yes. Is it easier? Yes. Will it always be this way? Probably not. Does it help to use a phn that isn’t a piece of crap? Yes. Is that a Blackberry? Heck no!

    Apple’s model makes it so much easier for the consumer. No need to go to some obscure website for apps. A software developer can actually get in the business. It just works. Are there trade-offs, sure, but far more benefits.

    RIM has been complacent in thinking they could sit in their corporate world and not have to compete with the better devices out there. They may surprise us and actually catch up but it’s hard to imagine that happening when the goalposts keep moving forward.

  • Mddg

    i agree that the future will be different and the web will be used differently. As soon as an era is identified another lies around the corner. So as soon as apple shows everyone how RIM will start the climb again.

  • Sunfaller

    I guess Apple doesn’t hold the monopoly on telling people what to think after all.

  • Noahattic

    apple just tells you what is good for you and what you don’t need. like flash capability

  • Anonymous

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  • skully

    Apps SUCK Steven Jobs!

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