Apple, RIM put the full-court press on developers

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) lifted the veils of secrecy around application development today, and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) announced innovations on its BlackBerry App World. Specifically, Apple updated its Developer Center Web site with the ability for developers to track their software as it progresses through the App Store’s oft-criticized approval process, and RIM gave its BlackBerry user interfaces a face lift, as well as promised carrier billing in App World by 2010.

In a bid for transparency, Apple let developers know its approval process is broken down into nine status levels to indicate whether the app is in review, ready for sale, rejected, etc. — steps that were previously undisclosed to the chagrin of developers. Regardless of how developers feel about Apple’s openness, they have repeatedly expressed discontent with the length of time the process took and the reported app rejections. Apple’s changes might not expedite the process, but they will at least let developers know where the stand and, hopefully, keep some — like Facebook — from jumping ship due to its policies.

In a separate announcement today, RIM told BlackBerry Developer Conference attendees that carrier billing will offer an alternative to PayPal for BlackBerry App World purchases by next year. At the show, the handset-maker also introduced BlackBerry Theme Studio, a customized UI for its smartphone line, and a new advertising service for developers to make it easier for them to integrate ads with apps.

The goal of the combined announcements for RIM, which significantly lags behind Apple in applications for App World (although co-CEO Jim Balsillie called quantity “an illusion”) is to boost BlackBerry’s desirability as a platform for developers. For Apple, which hasn’t had this problem, but certainly others, its goal is likely to stop these same developers from being wooed away.

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