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RIM executive boasts about company's app growth

A BlackBerry handset is displayed in Washington, in this December 15, 2011, file photo.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A senior Research In Motion Ltd. executive has written up an official blog post bragging about the growth in applications on the company's platform on the same day an industry analyst released a note saying RIM's hardware division actually lost money in 2011.

RIM's vice-president of developer relations, Alec Saunders, who joined the company last year, wrote a post titled "Something's happening, something wonderful" in which he threw out a few growth statistics for new applications, or apps, coming to BlackBerry smartphones and the company's weak-selling PlayBook tablet, which has been heavily discounted.

Mr. Saunders wrote that there has been a 240-per-cent increase in the number of PlayBook apps submitted to RIM's BlackBerry App World, as well as a 21-per-cent increase in smartphone apps. Apps, which are generally made by third-party software developers, have been a huge sore point for users of RIM's hardware. While Apple Inc.'s iOS platform has more than 500,000 apps and Google Inc.'s rival Android platform has seen around 10-billion downloads, RIM's platform has lagged – mainly because developers have gauged flagging interest, and targeted their apps toward platforms with more scale. The PlayBook, in particular, suffers from a dearth of high quality apps given that the company has only sold slightly more than a million units, making it not worthwhile for developers to focus on the device.

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But Mr. Saunders said he aims to ensure that RIM's 70,000-plus apps continue growing, offering a chance to win a free trip to Orlando to attend a company conference for developers who submit apps to the company's platform, a task that has become easier since RIM eased the process for porting over Android apps.

"We're going to keep driving that momentum and building that excitement," Mr. Saunders wrote.

At the same time, RIM is in a perilous position. Fourth-quarter and year-end results released on March 29 revealed deep fissures in the company's ongoing strategy, with declining sales, a worsening outlook and competitive pressure in the high-growth emerging markets that cushioned RIM's losses in lucrative markets such as the United States.

Also on Tuesday, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek released a research note that looked at RIM's annual filing on Monday, analyzing the company's operating margins by division and pointing out that RIM's hardware division is now "loss making."

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