Ahmed Eltawil's Blog

No dice for Skype & Netflix on BlackBerry PlayBook

Posted on: May 19, 2012

It’s crystal clear that the BlackBerry community want both Netflix and Skype apps on either (or on both) their BlackBerry smartphone or PlayBook but their wishes and requests have always gone unanswered and for reasons that are still unknown.

We keep hearing from BlackBerry (unofficially) that they are willing to help Netflix or Skype to build those apps on their BlackBerry PlayBook QNX platform if they just asked but still their tweets get no replies (as far as we know). Why? Why is it almost impossible to get Netflix and Skype on board the BlackBerry platform considering that BlackBerry has been around way before iPhone, Android and Windows Phone? This might come as a shock to all of you but even Nokia’s old, slow and outdated Symbian OS has an official Skype and Netflix apps.

The BlackBerry community has been very vocal about this issue through tweets, Facebook posts, petitions and even sending letters to Netflix and Skype’s headquarters to spread the awareness hoping it gives them the push they need to start the development but we haven’t heard or seen any positive outcome.

Look, before I say anything more I would like to mention that as a Canadian I am proud of the BlackBerry brand and support RIM. If it wasn’t for them we would probably still be using dumb phones today. That being said, I must say that I believe it isn’t completely Netflix or Skype’s fault for not building apps for the PlayBook’s QNX platform, RIM is to be greatly blamed as well.

Ponder about this for a minute. Those Twitter and Facebook apps on BlackBerry smartphones weren’t even created by Twitter nor Facebook, respectively. They were built by RIM. So it isn’t just Netflix and Skype that aren’t interested in developing apps for the BlackBerry OS (or the PlayBook’s QNX platform), it seems that both popular social networks aren’t interested either which is probably why RIM took it on themselves to create Twitter and Facebook apps.

Here is another point to think about. As I mentioned above, BlackBerry has been around way before iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, yet all those mobile platforms got official apps from Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Netflix either at launch or during a period of at most one year after launch yet BlackBerry still gets neglected. So how did, for instance, Microsoft get Netflix and Skype to develop apps for their Windows Phone platform even though Windows Phone’s market share is below all mobile operating systems on the market? The BlackBerry PlayBook is in this same spot right now with a small market share (just like Windows Phone) yet, a year later, there isn’t a single evidence that says both Netflix and Skype are working on a PlayBook app. Why is that?

Microsoft, Google and Apple all seem to have that power or influence (or whatever you want to call it) that pushes third party companies to support their mobile platforms. Microsoft definitely did something behind the scenes to get those deal breaker apps on board the Windows Phone platform before the OS had any decent market share. So it is obvious that RIM has a role to play to get those ‘must-have’ apps on their PlayBook as well.

In other words, we can’t just blame Netflix and Skype for not developing apps for the PlayBook or the BlackBerry OS. RIM, just like Microsoft, Apple and Google, has to play their part of the game or else it will always be ‘no-dice’.


2 Responses to "No dice for Skype & Netflix on BlackBerry PlayBook"

I just bought a Playbook last week for $150. (16gig). I thought it was a steal considering the hardware specs and build quality. I actually like QNX too. I’ve used Android and IOS extensively, and I have to say that QNX was a breath of fresh air. Seems like something that could make substantial strides in turning a tablet into a real work machine with its multitasking abilities. That being said, I came to the crushing reality that hardware and OS only make up for half the experience. Apps are truly that important, and lack of an abundant app ecosystem is far more crippling than I would have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, the casual web browser and light emailer will have a fine time with the Playbook off the shelf, but tech heads like myself will feel incredibly restricted by the small selection of apps, as well as the obvious exclusion of many key apps and services. Even beyond the lack of apps, often times the ones that are available are not certified apps, but rather 3rd party licensed apps. As you mentioned, Facebook didn’t make the Facebook app on the Playbook, and that becomes painfully obvious when comparing the QNX version with IOS or Android’s version. QNX apps tend to look and function like IOS or Android Beta apps from 2 years ago. The finesse and polish are missing, as well as cutting edge functions. Thankfully I managed to sideload a few android apps after upgrading to OS2.0, but many of the ones that I hoped to work, didn’t. The ones that do work can be a little quirky with GUI differences between QNX and Android, and the sideloaded apps appear to run in a container of sorts that sandboxes those apps into their own runtime. While they do work, interaction with those apps always feels slightly disconnected from the rest of the OS.

All in all, I have a cheap web browser and email device. I wouldn’t necessarily include video in that list because of the lack of Netflix app support and the lack of Silverlight support (needed for web Netflix). If I had to make the decision again, I’d live with Android on the tab 7.0. I’m just happy I didn’t shell out $499. for this thing back when it was released.

The UI experience on PlayBook’s QNX platform so far isn’t consistent at all. Yes, there are some consistent actions (like swiping from the top of an app for options), but the UI elements and icons aren’t consistent like on other more popular platforms. And having to side-load Android apps messes up the experience ten fold.

At this point in time you’re probably right, an Android tablet would’ve offered a better experience and app selection (obviously) but you can’t beat the PlayBook’s price either.

I am just hoping all this BB10 hype that RIM is generating pays off in the end and doesn’t end up in people’s memories like WebOS.

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