Research In Motion (RIM) is to follow in the footsteps of rivals Apple, Google and Microsoft by launching an applications ‘storefront’ for its BlackBerry mobile platform. RIM plans to launch the storefront in March 2009 and BlackBerry application developers can begin submitting their applications and content for inclusion from December 2008. In a statement, RIM said the storefront will allow developers to set their own prices for applications and retain 80 percent of the revenue generated from their applications. It added that it was also working with PayPal, the online payments system, to enable applications to be paid for by consumers directly from a BlackBerry handset. The vendor also announced the ‘BlackBerry Application Center,’ which will allow on-device application centres to be customised for operators, and claims to be already working with operator partners to rollout the system on future BlackBerry smartphones.

RIM’s announcement has drawn comparisons with Apple’s App Store, which went live in July to coincide with the launch of the 3G version of the iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in July that iPhone customers had downloaded over 60 million applications from the store in its first 30 days of launch, generating around US$30 million in sales. The company claimed this week that it is on track for 200 million App Store downloads to date (see lead story). Meanwhile, Microsoft is believed to be working on an applications storefront known as ‘Skymarket’ for its next version of Windows Mobile, and Google has developed an application store for its Android mobile operating system known as ‘Android Market.’