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Congrats, I think, to Alec Saunders as RIM's New VP of Developer Relations

Congratulations (I think) to my friend Alec Saunders for taking a new role as "VP of Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development" for Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry line of mobile devices.

Or perhaps condolences are in order... somehow he has to make developing for the Blackberry sexy again to all the app developers who focus these days on the world of iOS/iPhone/iPad and the Android platform.

Alec certainly has his work cut out for him. As he writes in his post today announcing the news:

Over the last few days I’ve been in San Francisco at the Mobilize conference, and speaking with developers. It’s clear from those conversations that the primary problem we face is lack of support from application developers. My team’s job is to correct that – to win the hearts and minds of mobile developers again.

"Lack of support" probably doesn't go far enough as a statement. Any of a zillion charts will show you Blackberry's rapidly declining marketshare (particularly in the US). iPhones are dramatically outselling Blackberries and Apple is poised to launch iPhone 5 / iOS 5 / iCloud next week, pretty much assuring even more of a boost to the iOS platform and developer ecosystem.

On the Android side, recents stats show twice as many people buying Android devices as iPhones... and today's mega-launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet is going to light an even larger flame under the Android ecosystem.

Plus, add in Microsoft and all they are attempting to do with the Windows Phone platform...

And somehow... in the midst of all of this...

Alec is going to try to get developers excited about developing apps for the Blackberry???

Not just for the Playbook, mind you, but for the traditional Blackberry platforms of "BBOS" and the new QNX platform. As he says in an interview posted on RIM's Blackberry Developer Blog today:

Developer evangelism is all about personal contact, listening, responding, and educating. We’re going to work very closely with the developer community, expand on support and programs that make it easy and rewarding for developers to create apps, be in the midst of developers to understand their needs and secure a great developer experience, and identify and remove the barriers developers face in supporting our platforms and doing business with us.

It's a tough task, made even more challenging by RIM's recent earnings report (or lack thereof), but if anyone has a hope of pulling it off, it's Alec. He's an exceptional communicator, marketer and salesman... and brings both a great technical depth and ability to communicate in "regular" language.

I do seriously wish him all the best! I've been a long-time fan of the Blackberry, even though I myself changed mine in for an iPhone back in 2008 or so. RIM has done some pretty amazing things in the mobile market, but as Gizmodo recently noted ("How RIM Could Save Itself"), RIM tied itself to the enterprise so tightly that it missed out on the rise of smartphones in the consumer space - and the corresponding move of those "consumer" smartphones back into the enterprise.

What will their future look like? Can they win back developers? Can they make the Blackberry ecosystem sexy again? Can it claw its way back into being a player in the smartphone market?

Alec's got a challenge before him - and I look forward to seeing what he'll do!

P.S. Up to join in the challenge? As Alec notes at the bottom of his blog post, he's hiring developer evangelists...

Other notes about Alec's new role:

Image credit: me. Taken at ITEXPO East 2010 in South Beach, Miami :-)