BlackBerry invests millions to rescue failing app strategy

BlackBerry Partners Fund’s big investment in cross-platform application store PocketGear during a Series B funding round could mark a play to save BlackBerry’s struggling application platform.

The Partners Fund’s decision to invest in PocketGear, which supports BlackBerry applications, comes as BlackBerry’s App World trails far behind competing iPhone and Android platforms. The investment could mark an attempt to salvage application distribution for the BlackBerry platform without an overwhelming financial commitment.

“Clearly BlackBerry’s app store hasn’t done that well,” said Neil Strother, Kirkland, WA-based mobile practice director at ABI Research. “This gives them a boost, and opens up the door with new application offers to attract their target audience.
“This also gives them a boost without having to spend a lot of money internally,” he said. “It broadens BlackBerry’s potential scope of reach.

“This underscores the fact that they haven’t had a great amount of success with new apps vis a vis what has gone on with Apple and Android.”

Trident Capital and Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures also participated in the $15 million investment round.

The BlackBerry Partners Fund is a $150 million venture capital fund that invests in businesses focused on applications and services for the BlackBerry platform.

Research In Motion is an investor in the fund and provides assistance in the areas of technology, marketing and channel development.

However, RIM does not have final say in the fund’s investment decisions.

Durham, NC-based PocketGear claims to be the world’s largest cross-platform open application store, offering more than 140,000 paid and free titles across several platforms, including BlackBerry, Android and Java.

PocketGear declined to state how much each company invested, except that Trident, BlackBerry Partners Fund and TomorrowVentures each doled out amounts in the millions.
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