RIM Adding Developers as YouMail Stops BlackBerry Work

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the troubled maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, said it’s gaining developers, even as some mobile application makers, including YouMail Inc., are stopping work on RIM products.

YouMail, which provides caller identity and voice-mail services for smartphones, said it was stopping development on the BlackBerry version of its visual voice-mail app., citing a “steady exodus” of users moving to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and to Android smartphones.

Alec Saunders, vice president, developer relations for RIM, responded in blog yesterday, saying YouMail’s statement was a “little bizarre” and its basic premise was wrong. While BlackBerry “has some challenging times ahead,” visual voice mail “isn’t a business anymore,” as it is a feature that comes with most phones, Saunders said.

RIM said last month it’s weighing strategic changes after market-share losses to Apple and handsets that use Android software led to five straight quarters of sales shortfalls. The company pledged on March 29 to redouble efforts to attract business customers while reviewing options, such as licensing, partnerships, joint ventures and other ways to “leverage” assets.

“Developers are not abandoning BlackBerry,” Saunders said in an interview today. “The evidence doesn’t bear that out.”

The number of developers registered with BlackBerry App World’s store increased to 34,000 in February, from 9,600 a year earlier, Saunders said in the interview.

YouMail said it won’t continue working on the BlackBerry version of its app because it’s “seen our BlackBerry audience steadily shrink, with a steady exodus of those users moving to the iPhone and to Android.”

‘Musical Chairs’

Most of YouMail’s users are based in the U.S., where RIM’s share dropped to 13.4 percent of smartphones used in a three- month period ended in February, down from 16.6 percent in a three-month period ended in November, according to researcher ComScore. (SCOR) Together, Apple and Android controlled 80.3 percent of the market.

“It’s a little bit like musical chairs,” YouMail Chief Executive Alex Quilici said in an interview today. “You have limited resources, and right now, there’s no seat for RIM for us.”

Developer interest in BlackBerry declined to 15.5 percent in the first quarter, down from 20.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, a survey of 2,173 developers conducted in January by Appcelerator and IDC found. Fewer people were “very interested” in developing for the BlackBerry operating system than in building apps for Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows Phone operating systems.

Last year, Seesmic Inc., a maker of an app that lets users post to social networks Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD), announced it will discontinue its support of the BlackBerry to focus on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland at okharif@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ville Heiskanen at vheiskanen@bloomberg.net

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