UPDATE 2: MLB just released the BlackBerry version of its At Bat 12 app, just in time for opening day. Unfortunately, the app doesn't support all of the features available in the iOS and Android apps, namely live streaming games via MLB.tv. But it's certainly better than nothing. (Find At Bat 12 for BlackBerry in App World.)
UPDATED: MLB just released its At Bat 12 mobile app, and the software is available for all major mobile platforms except for BlackBerry. This is obviously bad news for BlackBerry-toting baseball fans--and for RIM.
I've been a loyal BlackBerry user since before the first iPhone or Android devices were released. But today, I carry at least two smartphones, sometimes more—my BlackBerry and an Android device or iPhone--because my BlackBerry simply doesn't deliver the same amount or quality of mobile apps I can find on iOS and Android.
And I'm okay with that; I'm a two smartphone man, and I actually feel like I'm better for it, since carrying a BlackBerry gives me the best messaging and mail experience on a handheld available, in my opinion, and my Android/iPhone gives me the best choice of apps.
But I haven't given up on BlackBerry completely for apps, and always keep my eye out for new software. I'm also a passionate Boston sports fan, and as such, I'm constantly checking my phones for scores, news and other updates. Recently, I noticed an alarming trend in BlackBerry sports apps: A couple of the major professional sports leagues and organizations have stopped offering BlackBerry smartphone apps.
Neither the National Hockey League (NHL) nor the National Basketball Association (NBA) released official BlackBerry sports apps for the 2011/2012 seasons, even though both organizations offered BlackBerry apps in the past. Both the NHL and the NBA are massive organizations with equally large resources, and mobile applications are presumably at or near the top of their lists of technology priorities, given the popularity of smartphones and tablets.
Yet both of the organizations deemed it fit to ditch their 2012 BlackBerry apps. And MLB could be next.
MLB's At Bat mobile apps have been very popular in the past, even with the relatively steep price tag of $15 on most platforms. With baseball season just around the corner, MLB plans to release MLB At Bat 12 on February 29. But the only information available on the new app right now is posted on an MLB.TV promo page...and though it mentions iPhone, iPad and Android device, BlackBerry is absent.
This doesn't necessarily mean the app won't become available for BlackBerry, as it was in past years, only that the MLB.TV features, which allow streaming of games and other video, won't be available for BlackBerry. (This was also the case last year.) But it still means the BlackBerry app at best will offer fewer features than the iOS and Android versions.
It's worth noting that the National Football League (NFL) did offer an NFL 2011 app, so not all of the major U.S. professional sports organizations have jumped the BlackBerry ship just yet.
The loss of the NHL and NBA, and possibly MLB, however, is clearly a bad thing for RIM and its BlackBerry customers. RIM is expected to release a brand new smartphone OS later this year, called BlackBerry 10, and it remains to be seen whether or not U.S. professional sports organizations will release apps for the new OS. RIM's PlayBook tablet should soon be able to run Android applications via a new "Android Player" featured in the tablet OS, so Playbook users could potentially run the sports apps for Android on their tablets if the developers of those apps decide to make them available for the PlayBook. But that still leaves a lot of RIM customers without access to these apps.
What's even more unfortunate is the message that the NHL and NBA are sending: BlackBerry is no longer worth our time.
So despite RIM's recent claims that BlackBerry developers make more money than Android developers, up-and-coming app creators and other organizations considering the BlackBerry platform may be more inclined to listen to others who have turned their back on it.