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Is RIM blocking side-loading of apps on the PlayBook or not?

John Cox | April 11, 2012
A casual tweet sparks controversy and confusion over whether BlackBerry PlayBook users will be able to side-load apps apart from RIM's online store. A followup blog post doesn't bring much more clarity.

First RIM roiled its shrinking universe of users and developers with a single tweet about ending side-loading of apps on its PlayBook tablet. And then the company created more confusion with a blog post this week that was supposed to give "nuance" to the tweet.

And it's still not clear whether RIM plans simply to block side-loading as it's currently understood and practiced among PlayBook users, or to modify it and limit it. Side-loading, which is also an issue in other mobile platforms, is the ability to install applications outside of an official "app store," in this case BlackBerry App World.

The confusion started during an April 4 exchange on Twitter between Alec Saunders (@asaunders), RIM's vice president of developer relations, and a number of his followers. Mohamed Rizk (@Spy520e), a BlackBerry developer from Doha, Qatar, asked Saunders via tweet, "Heard you're removing Side Loading from OS 2.1, that's ok, but any workaround to test apps other than Simulator?"

BlackBerry developers use side-loading to install an app in development, test it and debug it, before submitting it to the online marketplace.

Saunders' reply: "we're removing side-loading for consumers. Pretty sure we've got a solution for devs."

Replies started immediately. "please dear god no! re: no side-loading in future. I feel a hole is being filled w/ side-loading and is not even fully filled," tweeted test @t35ttw1tt3r, adding in a second post: "unless the key app gap is filled I would beg to keep side-loading."

"Removing side-loading would remove a lot of functionality my PB has," tweeted ADavidson (@davidson25). "Kindle, Zynga games, Google maps, Soundcloud to mention a few." ADavidson added later: "more than half the apps I use are sideloaded and there's no sign of them in [BlackBerry] app world."

In his follow-up tweets, Saunders said developers are pushing for an end to side-loading so their apps won't be pirated. "We've got devs who refuse to work with us until it's gone. Sorry guys." And he pointed to the growing number of BlackBerry apps available at the online store: "like I said -- working it. 25,000 new apps submitted last quarter. Our best developer quarter EVER."

The comments quickly spilled over into other online forums, like this one at A range of posters, identifying themselves as developers, were in agreement with Saunders' evaluation.

"I never once heard them say that they were giving people the chance to sideload," posted Flexin. "They were offering a Android player to make it easy for dev to port over apps. They can't force people to do it. Some did it, a lot didn't. You're taking it a step farther. That's up to you but if they remove it they are not taking away anything they said they would give you. If the Android player is still there then they are still doing what they said [they would do]."


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