This is just what Research In Motion (RIM) doesn’t need. Confusion over one of the features of their BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
The confusion appears to have been sown by RIM’s vice president of developer relations, Alec Saunders. In a Tweet aimed at developers yesterday, Saunders suggested that RIM would prevent the ability to side-load Android apps onto the tablet in the future, and referred to Google’s Android market as a “chaotic cesspool.”
That was taken by some to mean that RIM would discontinue the new BlackBerry PlayBook feature that allows PlayBook users to download and use Android apps on their BlackBerry tablet. This was one of the new features added to the tablet when the current BlackBerry OS 2 was launched.
The ability to use Android apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook was one of the more highly anticipated features of the new operating system. The pickings in the BlackBerry market are slim compared to what’s available for Android devices.
In a blog post today, Saunders blames the confusion on the 140 character limit allowed in a Tweet. He writes the character limit “doesn’t allow for nuance.”
He goes on to say he was referring to “side-loading” as a feature for developers which could be used nefariously to pirate apps. “It exists so that developers can load their apps onto their own devices to test. It’s there so developers can send a beta release to their testing community for review. It is definitely not there for some people to side load a pirated app,” Saunders said in his post.
RIM has been struggling for over a year to have the BlackBerry PlayBook accepted by consumers and enterprise users. Its original launch went poorly, and the tablet has gone through a complete makeover. It now has a new operating system and a price that is dramatically lower than it was just a year ago.
Saunders clarification will likely make this whole issue blow away, as a careful reading of his comments make it clear that he was not referring to the ability the app to use Android apps. But RIM will have to tread carefully to make sure no additional confusion arises. With the company in a downward sales and earnings spiral lately, both users and investors are nervous. That nervousness can lead to either, or both, jumping to wrong conclusions over minor issues such as this.