Results of Launching Desktop Bridge

Tue 12 June 2012 by Xitij Ritesh Patel

If you don’t know what Desktop Bridge is, the YouTube video above should help illustrate what it does.

Many of us have likely have had an idea similar to Desktop Bridge. I’m sure many of you have thought that it would be great to access your phone’s functions from your PC, so you could respond to messages without interrupting your workflow to pick up your device. I personally had the idea ever since I first used a BlackBerry back in 2004 during my co-op work term at RIM.

On the night of May 15, I thought I would just go for it and see if I could create an app to make it happen. Over the course of 4 hours, I had managed to write a proof-of-concept to demonstrate that it could work. Within another 8 hours, I had the app working reliably with a usable UI. After another 4 hours, I had the app ready to submit to App World on May 16. Like most developers, I figured App World approval would determine whether or not RIM would sanction the app, which would ultimately determine whether I should continue with my efforts. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I would quickly realize that I gave RIM too much credit.

While I awaited approval, I continued to make my own refinements and improvements. I figured that if RIM denied it, it would still be a very useful app for my own personal use. It was at this point that I started to understand some of the security implications of the app, namely the fact that the PIM data was being transmitted wirelessly, without any encryption or authentication. Thus, I started to come up with a solution to this problem, working through a number of different options. I eventually settled on using SSL-based encryption with a self-signed certificate generated on the device. Moreover, every connection to the app running on the PlayBook had to be confirmed via an on-screen notification. I felt that this was a relatively good security solution that balanced security with usability and simplicity.

On May 21, RIM approved Desktop Bridge for release. I was very excited, and the approval simply added fuel to my efforts. I started thinking about how to market and launch the app. I posted many screenshots to twitter, and started engaging with potential customers and blogs. I thought of ideas for the product page and a launch video. In fact, it got plenty of other developers excited as well. I was able to get preliminary access to TestLab, which allowed me to coordinate the release of 3 beta versions to a number of testers. I held off on posting Desktop Bridge for sale because I wasn’t happy with the security issues surrounding the version I had submitted, and I wanted to coordinate the launch to make it effective.

On May 23, I received another e-mail from BlackBerry App World notifying me that Desktop Bridge was moved back to a ‘Pending Review’ state, and that I would be notified once the extended review was complete. At this point, I had no additional information or communications, so my assumption was that they had the same security concerns that I did. Shortly after receiving this e-mail, I uploaded one of my beta versions to App World for their review, along with a changelog indicating that I had added SSL-based encryption and device-side authentication. It was my hope that it would demonstrate that I was continuing to work on Desktop Bridge, and addressing any potential concerns they may have had.

I continued to work on the app, putting the final touches on it in anticipation of launching it. I put up the product page, communicated with various blogs, and continued sending tweets. I even contacted @BlackBerryDev to find out if they had any information about what was happening with the approval. Having a product move back into review was quite unusual, and I was understandably concerned. @BlackBerryDev was unable to provide any concrete details, but assured me that the review was close to completion and that I should be receiving a decision soon.

Needless to say, I was quite nervous at this point. However, on Sunday, May 27, Desktop Bridge was approved for release. I was floored, and in disbelief. I contacted @BlackBerryDev asking if this approval was for real. They said that if the App World team cleared it, then I should be good to go. (In their defense, App World approvals are not their area, they likely don’t have much more information than me.)

I submitted one final version to App World for approval from their test house, with all of the bugfixes I had implemented. This was to be my launch version, and I was planning to launch at 9:00am on Tuesday, May 29, to catch the potential customers returning to work after the Memorial Day weekend. I posted up a countdown at Crackberry in their forums, and tweeted about the launch date. I put together the final edits on my launch video, uploaded it, and posted it just prior to launch. I stayed up all night, too excited to sleep. At 9am, I posted it for sale. At 11:30am, it was removed from App World.

Results of the Launch

For the short time that Desktop Bridge was in App World, I had 25 sales in various countries in the $4.99 price tier. Moreover, I had three 5-star reviews. After the app was pulled, I started receiving e-mails, tweets, and even phone calls asking where Desktop Bridge went. This went on for several days. I did my best to notify everyone of its removal, but at this point, I decided to divert my attention to other things while I collected myself and decided what to do next.

However, these results are still quite promising. They indicate the potential success of Desktop Bridge, and how well it could have done if RIM had not removed it from App World. It seems that my efforts would have paid off.

In a small attempt to recoup some of my costs, I have decided to make Desktop Bridge available to be sideloaded. If you want it for free, here’s a link to the pirate site. If you’d like to buy it, you can click the button below. I’ve lowered the price from $4.99 to $2, but allowed you to name your own price as well. Please read the notes that I’ve left on it, as I cannot guarantee future functionality.

Desktop Bridge


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