Software developers press pause on apps over fear of BlackBerry ban

BlackBerry application developers based in the UAE have put the brakes on their projects as they wait for a resolution between the telecommunications regulator and RIM.

BlackBerry application developers based in the UAE have put the brakes on their projects as they wait for a resolution between the telecommunications regulator and the maker of the device, Research In Motion (RIM). UAE authorities have said the decision to suspend BlackBerry services in the country on October 11 is "final".

While the potential suspension is causing concern among the 500,000 BlackBerry subscribers in the UAE, it is also affecting the business prospects of some local companies with global aspirations that develop applications (apps) for the device. "As far as we're concerned, we've stopped this development until the Government comes out with a concrete statement on what will happen to the BlackBerry," said Moshin Muhyidin, an applications developer based in Sharjah.

Mr Muhyidin was working on an app that would help project managers in the construction industry connect to their databases while on a job site. He has already completed a web-based app for his customers but has put plans to finish developing a stand-alone BlackBerry app on hold. "The impact will be huge for us because we were anticipating a lot of subscribers. There's a huge penetration of BlackBerry users in the UAE," Mr Muhyidin said.

The suspension has also affected Flip Media, an interactive advertising agency based in Dubai that has developed six apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. "Naturally, the uncertainty over the future of the BlackBerry in the GCC is a concern and that has forced us to shelve any plans we had for the moment," said Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, the chief executive of Flip Media. About 10,000 BlackBerry apps are available on RIM's "App World", a fraction of the 253,000 apps available for the iPhone device. However, there are 41 million BlackBerry users around the world, providing ample potential for developers to make an app that could generate significant sales.

Ali Hamidi, the founder of Pirana Bytes, a start-up company based in the Dubai Silicon Oasis, fears the potential suspension will affect all UAE developers because they will not be invited to bid on future BlackBerry apps projects. Mr Hamidi was working on a BlackBerry app that would allow access to a variety of instant messaging services, including BlackBerry Messenger, in one piece of software. However, he has also put the project on hold.

"We've been asked by some companies outside of the UAE to build games for the BlackBerry and we've got access to the developers' kit," Mr Hamidi said. "The impact from a potential suspension will not really affect us too much because we build applications for other devices but the practicalities of testing on the devices will be the biggest obstacle for us going forward." The looming suspension will also have an impact on potential entrepreneurs looking to develop their own BlackBerry apps, said Ashraf Khalil, an assistant professor of computer sciences at Abu Dhabi University.

"We wanted to make iPhone and BlackBerry applications and RIM has an academic collaboration programme we were talking to ? about supporting us," Mr Khalil said. "This deal is no longer there because we're not sure if [RIM are] going to be here. We're not developing any BlackBerry applications ? unless there's clarification as to what's going on in the market." RIM declined to comment.