BlackBerry App World already has competition

RIM Announces its App World at CTIA with a noticeable lack of Skype; MobiHand tries to get in on the game

Some of the first news to come out of CTIA was also the least surprising: RIM has officially announced its BlackBerry App World. In order to browse and download apps, users must first download the storefront; in order to purchase, users first need to have a PayPal account. Really, it's all pretty standard stuff. Accessed over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, the BlackBerry App World toolbar along the bottom gives you shortcuts icons for Categories, Top Downloads, Search, and MyWorld (reviews, recommendations, uninstall/reinstall). Then it's choose, click, download, done.

It's anticipated that BAW will contain about 1,000 applications by the end of the week, and RIM has released a statement indicating that the apps will "preserve the appropriate IT architecture and controls required by our enterprise customers." The company's walking a fine line by trying to appeal to a consumer market while keeping its enterprise base; in the end, it will all be up to the popularity and usefulness of the apps themselves.

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Beating RIM to the punch by a day was MobiHand, a third-party mobile software distributor that announced its independent BlackBerry mobile application store on Tuesday. MobiHand has a habit of jumping everyone else's train -- it announced an Android app store last year. The BlackBerry version is reportedly packed with more than 5,000 free and paid titles and a Deal of the Day discount on a top-selling app; MobiHand also is wooing developers by permitting them to sell BlackBerry apps for 99 cents (versus BAW's $2.99), and developers can sell subscription or one-time fee apps, as well as free trial versions. While MobiHand may succeed in stealing some of the vote, it's not likely that it will win the election, so to speak.

While a turn-by-turn-directions app has been rumored to be on the way, the app that was most noticeably missing on Wednesday's announcement was the beta version of Skype. The VoIP giant released its iPhone version to mixed reviews; a BlackBerry-lite version is expected to arrive shortly. It may be worth waiting until May when it's past beta, as there is some indication that some kinks to be worked out -- some users have called it buggy. One of the bigger kinks: no Canadian service. The general feedback seems to be if you're already a Skype user and can get the app to function on your handset, you'll be excited to see it finally reach these platforms. If you're not or you can't, then there's nothing to impress you here.