Interview with Alan Brenner, SVP of BlackBerry Platform for Research in Motion

By Kevin Michaluk on 5 May 2010 02:39 pm EDT

At WES 2010 in Orlando last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the camera rolling and talk shop with Alan Brenner, who is the Senior Vice President of the BlackBerry Platform for Research in Motion. As you can imagine with a title like that, a LOT of stuff in the BlackBerry-realm falls under Alan's management, from RIM's core of "delivering the mail" (BES/BIS) to things like BlackBerry MVS, App World and even RIM-built apps like the new Twitter for BlackBerry.

I tossed a lot of questions at Alan during our time together that were things I figured the CrackBerry community would want to hear. We cover topics like App World and BlackBerry app development, gaming on BlackBerry (I was curious to know how high of a priority games on BlackBerry is for RIM - aka how soon we'll see OpenGL on GSM BBs) and touch on the growing need for increased memory on BlackBerry. HUGE thanks to Alan for taking the time to speak to CrackBerry. Enjoy the show!

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Interview with Alan Brenner, SVP of BlackBerry Platform for Research in Motion


of interesting things said in this interview. Kind of gives you a look at what RIM's focus is and what they have already determined not to be in their pipeline. While I can't say I agree with their stance on running apps off the SDCard it's great to hear someone within RIM speak about the memory concerns.

Quantity of apps is the VERY LEAST of things RIM needs to focus on. For the BB platform, 15,000 seems like a lot, I'd like to know how many of those are actually useful/functional.

I agree. What it illustrates to me is the continued lack of developer enthusiasm for the platform. That's probably brought on in large part because of the app memory situation and the wide range of device capabilities.

Seeing this more and more everyday. I use dropbox and have been waiting for it for my Tour. Installed it on my wife's Samsung Moment and can get it on an iPad but not my berry. If developers are writing for android before Berry that tells you where the money is for development and that is a signal of the end if RIM doesn't get with it. Google has the money and the know how to compete in enterprise. If they decide too RIM is doomed.

If they don't plan on running apps off of SD cards, what are they going to do? Just increase the size of the Flash memory for Apps? They've seemed pretty reluctant to do anything really meaningful in that area so far.

They need to bump up the amount of addressable internal memory in newly released devices into the multi-GB range. I'm afraid that might require reworking the OS, though that's just an assumption. I can't think of any logical reason they should release a device with 2 GB of internal file storage and only 256 MB of app storage unless there is some technical limitation.

To me the most important thing is the memory. What good are 6000 apps if you can only put 8 on your phone at a time and half of those are apps like quick pull to reset your phone when it runs out of memory. The memory thing needs to solved and it does not seem like they have much of a plan, other than buy a new phone, but even then it is not that much more memory.

I was always hoping for RIM to step up and have us run apps off our SD card. He plain out told us that they will not do that since the cards are removable! Not good

I dont understand why RIM can't have apps run off the onboard memory like for Example storm 2 has. Storm 2 has 2gb onboard memory which can only be used for media... why not have apps run off that??

He said they only have 20 Million users right now.. Mike made a HUGE deal about having 40 Million users right now! someones off by 20 Million users .......

20 million App World users, 40 million BlackBerry subscribers. Pretty sure Mike made the distinction, and Alan was talking in the context of App World, so 20 million is right.

Aha, I get it, it's for security reasons. If you could run an app of the sd card then anybody could switch your sd card and install a virus app. Am I (or rim) paranoid about this? On some models it's very easy to swap it in seconds.

It'll only run signed code, so what difference does it make if you run it from an SD card or from internal memory?

why make a decent twitter app what way more people use facebook....
and their facebook app is horrible. seriously my 3 year old ipod touch,
which has an ancient iphone facebook app, works better than my blackberry.

wonder if RIM hires anyone under 40yo to work for them. there seems to be an age gap with understanding what consumers want these days.

Jobs? What execs from what companies can you identify as being under 40 whose work you are itching to be duplicated?

Jobs has always been push the limits and innovated, you dont see Jobs trying to enter into the Business phone market. RIM has always been strict IBM business types. Now RIM wants a piece of the consumer market, yet they have no concept of what the regular consumer wants. I'm just saying if you plan on entering a new market hire people that can push the limits. You have all these old Business guys telling you what's cool and how cool os 6 is... sorry but we all know RIM is business first so its hard to by the this is cool line.

the dinosaur in this interview is what's wrong with RIM. how can more on-board storage NOT be in his "TO DO LIST"? WTF!

Wow, could the sound effects for that video be much more obnoxious? Its an interview not a sci-fi fight scene. Sound effects should NEVER peak higher than the vocals.

Well worth the listen. After owning a couple of Blackberrys for a couple of years, learning the in's and out's, etc. We feel somewhat vested in the company. I have been holding off replacing my phone to be sure I made a purchase that would serve for a few years without being handicapped . Hope something comes to T-Mobile this year! I don't really understand why memory is such a problem. I'm not sure why a sd card wouldn't be ok but at least Mr. Brenner recognizes the need..I was beginning to wonder.
Thanks for the good job!

It seems that everyone wants more memory, you have to ask yourself where does the power come from to power this memory? memory uses lots of power, so do hi res screens, the apple phone has what? up to 32 GIG, the iphone is half battery and still wont last under light use for more than 6 or 7 hours, Hi Res screens, Memory and power are all a bunch of tradeoffs, you cant have one without taking something away from someplace else.

the BB already has a standby time of 13days and talk time of like 5hrs... i'd be perfectly okay with more memory even if it shaves off an hour. I dont need to talk on my cellphone for 5hrs in a day. And people who do talk that much usually carry a charger or second battery. the big problem is not onboard memory its the fact RIM won't allow APPs to be stored on the memory card.

With what consumers want. They are clearly going all in for enterprise, and that's their strength, so why not...just don't expect us to stick around.

1 out of 20 users downloads an app a day? And how many of those are updates to Poynt, Slacker, BBM...heck I do 2-3 every time I load a hybrid...those are terrible numbers but they don't seem to care.

I'll enjoy the BB for work, and personal will have to be either Android or Apple. This is disappointing they do some things really well in their OS =(

What sort of numbers are you expecting? Do you have comparable numbers for other platforms?

They seem to care to me, they keep on funding app development. They just seem a bit slow to address ease of development and hardware issues, but they're working on both.

While they are working and catching up Android is moving further ahead. I'm on my mobile now so I'm not going to look up comparison numbers but I highly doubt it's one of twenty users downloading stuff, especially when you consider almost all BB users get the bbm upgrades through app world, plus Facebook and the Twitter beta.

I noticed that all of these VP's are all OLD FARTS....Maybe they need to hire some new generation smart people to start rolling some new improved entertaining stuff for the Blackberries. Com'on these old gray haired baggets look like they are willing to push some new improved stuff to a phone? This guy looks like he can't wait to get home and sit on a rocking chair and smoke a pipe....Let's get with it RIM or I will surely switch to Droid "Incredible" in October when I am eligible for a phone upgrade.

thats what I said in another post. These old guys dont know what the consumer / young business types want. RIM is stuck on lets stick with what works mind set. all they do is put new themes on top of old coding.

They may be old farts but they are old RICH farts. We can expect change...when BB devices sales start slowing down. Until then, change will be VERY slow in coming.