RIM Investing $100 Million To Build Developer Community — Is It Too Late?

Research in Motion (RIM) is investing $100 million to grow the developer community for the BlackBerry platform, according to e27, a blog covering the Asia tech scene.

The immediate question that comes to mind: “Is it too late?” RIM is trying to save $1 billion after losing 95% of its market share since 1998. It has even started liquidating assets, with reports indicating it is selling its jet to trim its operations budget.

But in Singapore yesterday as part of its BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour, RIM presented a new option to make a comeback. ┬áThe $100 million investment shows that RIM recognizes that building a developer community is the company’s best chance of making its upcoming Blackberry 10 a success.

RIM has pretty much lost the enterprise. But there are legions of Blackberry lovers out there who have a unique place in the emergence of our smartphone culture. They were some of the first to experience the power that a mobile device can offer.

To rebuild and grow its community, RIM will run several developer programs to attract developers to the BlackBerry platform. E27 cites one example of how this might work. A developer would receive $10,000 to develop a paid app with the condition that it makes at least $1,000 in the first year.

RIM is also starting to hand out the BlackBerry 10 Alpha to developers for a head start in developing apps. The device is a prototype device used in-house by RIM engineers. RIM plans to give out 12,000 BlackBerry 10 Alpha devices.

An interesting tidbit from e27 — Alec Saunders is the vice president of developer relations for RIM. He is apparently responsible for convincing former CEO Mike Lazaridis that the best way to engage developers to built for the BlackBerry platform was to support them with the necessary hardware. Since then, RIM has given out 23,000 PlayBooks to developers.

RIM will also expand its developer team from 40 people to 130 by the end of the quarter. It is also reviving its BlackBerry certified developer program “to ensure that developers are equipped with the skills and information needed to develop for the BlackBerry platform.”

RIM is seeing growth in its mobile development efforts. In the past three months it has seen a 220% growth in its mobile apps available in the “App World,” numbering more than 90,000, ec2 reports.

Its paid apps are doing well, too. According to a study by VisionMobile, BlackBerry comes out on top in terms of average revenue, with nearly $3,900 per app per month, followed by iOS. BlackBerry developers generate, on average, 4% more revenue per app-month than iOS developers, who in turn generate about 35% more than Android developers

But the study also paints a grim picture for BlackBerry. Also according the VisionMobile study, BlackBerry developer are looking elsewhere to do their work:

BlackBerry (RIM) is close to becoming an endangered species, being abandoned by 41% of developers, – worse, 14% of those using it as their primary platform plan to jump ship.

Too little, too late?