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Last week I was in Bangkok for BlackBerry Jam Asia 2012, and it was quite a ride. Kevin couldn't make it for this one (I think between his creepy long hair and moustache they wouldn't let him into the country), but hey, his loss is my gain and this week I'm taking over CrackBerry's From the Editor's Desk post.
Although you might not see me around these parts often since I'm posting regularly on Mobile Nations sister sites Android Central and iMore, I still use a Bold 9900 on a day-to-day basis, and most of my blogging experience is in covering BlackBerry. That said, it was good to catch up with old RIM folks I know and see a few new faces at the show.
The message RIM consistently delivered throughout BlackBerry Jam Asia was that now is the time for developers to get on the boat. Of course there's the limited-time 10k Developer Commitment to take advantage of, but I think the bigger thing here is the massive strategic advantage of being first on the platform come launch day. Many developers will take a "wait and see" approach to BB10, but those that nut up and get in there will win downloads from hungry early adopters and earn a big head start on those late to the party.
The event was my first trip to Asia, and there were certainly a few things that stuck out from a wireless perspective. For one, service is super-cheap. I picked up a week's worth of prepaid voice and data for 77 baht, or around $2.50. Though there was plenty of poverty on the streets, there were lots of people packing every brand of smartphone, and BlackBerry was well-represented among them. 3G is still being touted lound and clear as a selling point among the service providers there, and if that's remotely representative of other Asian countries, I can't fault RIM for not rushing out an LTE smartphone yet. By the same token, NFC was prevalent both in the hotel and the subway system, which backed up RIM's push on that front.
As for developers, they face a lot of unique challenges, depending on which country they come from. Sure, BlackBerry and BBM usage is pretty high across the board, but the whole region is very distinctly cut up, and as such, Jam Asia was full of apps for extremely localized markets. The ones I judged at the JamHack competition were generally more global, but my favorite, Hive, was exclusively built for Australia for the time being. Language can be a significant barrier to allowing apps to jump between various international markets. Though I was surprised at how easily I could get around Bangkok with only English, detailed app demos were more hit and miss as far as communication goes.
From my brief glimpse of the area, Asia seems to be a rich mosaic of challenges and opportunities for developers and BlackBerry. If RIM can forge the right partnerships with the right devs, BlackBerry stands to maintain its strong foothold in Asia right through the launch of BB10.