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Notes from BlackBerry’s simply fantastic Alliance Summit

If you got last week’s newsletter, you’ll know I spent the back end of last week in Rome, Italy, for BlackBerry’s European Alliance Summit event. Only two members of the press were let in — me — and the world-famous Kevin Michaluk of CrackBerry.

I hadn’t previously bumped into Kevin before — but I’ve been reading his work on Crackberry for a long time. (He was, predictably — and as is right — feted by everyone at the event).

So Kevin and I were lucky enough participate in the conference proceedings. The purpose of the event — apart from networking — was to brief BlackBerry’s partners and developers, on the way ahead. Having signed an NDA, I’m afraid I can’t reveal anything — but what I can say is that after one particular forward-looking presentation about the platform and device evolution strategy, the delegates emerged with barely disguised glee reminiscent of the very best Apple zealots. This is good news for BlackBerry.

BlackBerry’s Alliance programme is their partner programme. There are four levels of membership — the lowest just a few hundred dollars. If you’re serious about doing business with BlackBerry, then definitely become an Alliance member. Over the past years, there have been a whopping amount of mobile developers joining the ranks. If you’re looking to develop for BlackBerry, you don’t have to be an Alliance member — but from the evidence I saw last week, the benefits of joining can be substantial. Indeed, the amount of networking and the amount of can-do zeal on display throughout the event was infectious.

In the first introductory presentation, Peter Heath, Director of Alliances for EMEA, spelt out BlackBerry’s commitment to their partners. His presentation was brimming with statistics — the 200,000 strong BlackBerry developer community caught my attention.

I slipped out of the middle of Peter’s presentation to get setup. I was there, you see, to profile mobile developers. I talked to BlackBerry’s UK PR a while ago and said if they had any developer events that I could attend — provided they covered my costs (a new rule from my wife) — I’d be delighted to bring the camera equipment and do some interviews.

I got everything setup and just as I’d switched on the camera to test the sound levels, woosh — the developers arrived. BlackBerry had explained that I was hunting for mobile developers to profile and within minutes of the presentations ending on the first day, I was inundated.

It was a fascinating experience. Some of those in the queue I’d invited to be interviewed. For example, I had a lot of people asking me to catch up with the chaps who made Poynt for BlackBerrry. Others were developers who wanted to be interviewed to let people know about what they’ve been working on.

“Step into my office!” I exclaimed to myself as I saw the queue.

I assigned 15 minutes to everybody I met — I asked everyone to introduce themselves, to tell us about their products/services and then I got into the meat. I wanted to know what it was like being a BlackBerry Alliance partner.

When you ask this question to developers on other platforms, you typically get quite a mixed response. Most take the opportunity to give a C or a B+ to the platform owner on camera. Some of the developers I’ve filmed at various Symbian events have been downright offensive about the platform.

Not one person gave a negative report on BlackBerry. Of course everyone at the event had paid to be there — and to join the partner programme — so I didn’t expect screaming hissy fits from developers, but I did expect a little bit of ‘improvement’ talk.

But as you’ll see in the videos I have begun publishing on Mobile Developer TV, BlackBerry’s Alliance partner mobile developers are having a ball. Witness, for example, the interview we published yesterday with Gadi Mazor of Nobex Radio Companion. Gadi is overflowing with praise. He should be — he’s got almost 1.5 million BlackBerry users streaming radio via his app.

Tony Bristol of Poynt was, likewise, hugely delighted with BlackBerry (see his video here). They too have almost 1.5 million customers using their application.

These kind of usage figures are an anathema to most developers — and when you think about BlackBerry, it’s far too easy to still consider the BlackBerry as a business-only platform. Not a bit of it. Almost everybody I profiled developing for consumer was sitting on hundreds of thousands if not millions of downloads. An eye-opener for me.

If you’re developing on mobile, I strongly suggest you give a lot of thought to releasing on the BlackBerry platform. Having observed the BlackBerry team at work across the days at the event, I am thoroughly excited for the platform. The team appears to operate with an almost evangelical passion — and in the very best can-do spirit.

I’d like to see what you make of the experience. If you’ve never developed for BlackBerry, I encourage you to take a look at the platform. You can download the tools and get started right-away via — but if you’d like a personal introduction to the right developer chaps at BlackBerry, just shoot me an email ( with an overview of what you’re looking to do and I’ll sort that out.

Keep your eyes on Mobile Developer TV and the podcast feed — I’ll soon be publishing a ton of videos from the event featuring some really, really cool mobile developers. (I’ll also repost a few here too!)

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