Can the New Blackberry Woo Developers Away from Apple and Google?

Attention app developers: RIM needs you! In fact, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is so desperate for developers that the company is giving away free prototypes of its yet-to-be-released BlackBerry 10 phones at its BlackBerry expo that starts today in Orlando, Florida.

The prototype giveaway is an attempt by the company to drum up some interest among developers in writing software for the new device. With smartphone applications bringing in more than $13 billion a year worldwide, many app programmers prefer to work with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS or Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android rather than designing for the considerably less popular RIM platform. Figure in product delays and market-share losses, and designing apps for the BlackBerry has become a hard sell.

A recent survey by Appcelerator and IDC showed that only 16 percent of developers polled were “very interested” in designing software for the BlackBerry, while the figure was 89 percent for the iPhone and 79 percent for Android.

This is problematic because the new BlackBerry needs developers to start start from scratch and create brand new programs to work with the upgraded operating system — a daunting task considering the old version of the BlackBerry has more than 60,000 apps.

RIM also has around 10,000 apps, originally created for its PlayBook tablet, that could transfer to the first BlackBerry 10 devices, according to Alec Saunders, RIM’s head of developer relations. However, Apple, which has more than 600,000 apps in its App Store, and Google, which has more than 500,000 in Google Play, are clearly leaving RIM in the dust.

The Ontario-based RIM needs the BlackBerry 10 to be a hit. In the U.S., BlackBerry sales dropped 57 percent last quarter. The 28-year-old company’s stock has fallen more than 90 percent from its peak in 2008.