With the launch of the BlackBerry Torch and the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, Research in Motion clearly hopes to carve out a bigger share of the consumer market. But even with upgraded hardware and software to challenge the iPhone, analysts have noted that the BlackBerry platform still falls far short, with only a modest selection of third-party apps.
It offers only about 9,000 compared to the iPhone's 225,000 and Android's 70,000. But with the launch of a free new app offering programming from content providers including Discovery Communications, Bloomberg, NPR, and The Onion, RIM aims to improve its standing as a media device.
The BlackBerry Podcasts app offers nearly 1,000 audio and video programs for any BlackBerry model running OS 4.6 or higher. Users can search categories like news, arts, business, TV and film or search by key word to find specific content. Push technology also alerts users when a new podcast they subscribe to is available.
Downloaded episodes can be stored on a microSD card for later viewing. RIM has also started its own BlackBerry Channel, including how-to videos and related product-themed podcasts. To boost distribution of the app, it will be preloaded on BlackBerry devices running BlackBerry 6, including the Torch.
"RIM's move to offer podcasts helps the BlackBerry maker expand the appeal of their product line, especially in light of podcasts already available to be consumed on competitor Apple iTunes platform and the multitude of Apple mobile devices," said William Ho, research director for wireless services at research firm Current Analysis. "RIM's podcast implementation stands out as it uses its tried and tested push technology to notify users of new podcasts."
The podcasts are not typically full-length versions of TV shows or movies so its not nearly the equivalent to shows and movies available through iTunes. But if it is the start of RIM upgrading its content offerings in conjunction with more media-friendly devices and software, then it could help people think of BlackBerry as more than a business phone.