| TORONTO/LAS VEGAS
TORONTO/LAS VEGAS Research In Motion has launched an online store selling entertainment, games, news and travel applications to BlackBerry users.
The store is immediately available to BlackBerry users in Britain, Canada and the United States, the company said on Wednesday.
While the iPhone application store of rival Apple Inc offers 70 percent of revenue from each piece of software to the developer, RIM plans to offer 80 percent.
RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said the remaining 20 percent would be shared between RIM and wireless carriers. "We think that's a fair distribution of the economics," he said in an interview.
Some analysts were skeptical that RIM would be able to attract the breadth of software developers Apple had signed up. Its offer of more revenue may be one way for the device maker to attract more developers, they said.
The company's media-rich BlackBerry smartphones, such as the Pearl, Curve, Storm and Bold models, compete with Apple's iPhone for retail customers.
Ontario-based RIM has pushed aggressively to diversify its user base beyond executives, lawyers, politicians and other professionals who use BlackBerrys to send wireless e-mail.
"I think we've firmly cut over to the broader consumer marketplace," Balsillie said.
Applications available in the new store will include Slacker, a service that lets consumers create their own radio stations, and QuickPlay Media Inc, which plans to deliver full-length prime-time television shows like "The Office" to BlackBerrys in May.
Co-Chief executive Mike Lazaridis said in his keynote speech at the annual CTIA show in Las Vegas that RIM would also offer consumer applications such as games, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, and applications for hotel reservations and weather updates.
He also announced a partnership with Ticketmaster, with the aim of offering BlackBerry customers perks such as advance access to concert ticket sales.
Offering a slate of interesting and diverse smartphone software, from the practical to the entertaining, can sometimes mean the difference between keeping and losing a user; someone who has spent money on such software may be reluctant to switch to a different device and have to pay all over again.
RIM first announced plans to enter the increasingly crowded market for mobile software supermarkets last year.
Microsoft Corp is also working on a mobile phone software marketplace and has signed up partners such as Web music service Pandora, game publisher Electronic Arts and Facebook.
Separately on Wednesday, Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, said "thousands" of developers and content providers had registered to sell content in its Ovi online store, which will open in early May.
Microsoft and Nokia plan to offer 70 percent of application revenue to software developers.
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RIM was set to report quarterly earnings on Thursday after warning in February that profit would come in at the low end of its previous forecast. Still, it said it expects to add 20 percent more subscribers than the 2.9 million it earlier predicted.
It cited a variety of factors in the profit warning, including product mix, lowered channel inventory levels and a higher ratio of new subscriber sales to upgrades and replacement sales.
RIM shares were up 5.7 percent to $45.56 in afternoon Nasdaq trade. Their 12-month high is $148.13, reached last June. Analysts have expressed concern about the company's gross margins and its ability to maintain momentum amid the recession.
Retail consumers have curbed spending, which may mean they are not willing to pay more for flashy new smartphones.
At the same time, corporations are trimming their budgets, which could prompt them to delay upgrading to newer BlackBerry models.
(Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki in Helsinki; editing by
Peter Galloway, Dan Lalor and John Wallace)