Clio’s Jack Newton Won’t Develop for RIM’s BlackBerry. Here’s Why

Jack Newton is the CEO of Clio, a Vancouver company that provides web-based practice management software for law firms. Jack deliberately doesn’t build apps for RIM’s BlackBerry platform.

Considering Clio is Vancouver-based, and Research In Motion is headquartered in Waterloo, this might make Jack appear a little unpatriotic. On the contrary, Jack is a true-blooded Canadian – in fact, he seems to love quoting the Great One.

In a recent guest post on Forbes, Jack praises a Wayne Gretzky classic: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that, in Jack’s eyes, the puck isn’t sliding to RIM’s stick.

Jack observes that “sound decisions help you grow [and] bad decisions hold you back.” The Clio co-founder explains in Forbes why he develops apps for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but not BlackBerry, despite the fact the latter is both Canadian and the original. 

As a young startup launching a cloud-based platform called Clio, we needed to select which mobile client(s) to support and decided to skip the Research In Motion BlackBerry. Opting not to develop a BlackBerry app hardly sounds like a tough decision today. However, this was 2007 and the mobile landscape was a vastly different place. There was Palm and no Android; the first Apple iPhone had just emerged on the scene; and BlackBerry was leading the pack with 44.5% of the U.S. PDA market as of Q1 2008.

The stodgy nature of BlackBerry stood in stark contrast to the iPhone’s fresh design and incredibly intuitive touch-based user interface. The iPhone was and is exactly what good technology should look and feel like. The Clio Mobile App for iPhone offered a beautiful, dead-simple design that put a lawyer’s entire practice right at their fingertips. We were able to get a proof-of-concept Web app for iPhone working in less than a week, whereas a similar app for BlackBerry would have taken at least two months to build. With our limited development and engineering resources, we decided to launch Clio Mobile without BlackBerry support.

Jack affirms that iPhone and Android are “better technologies” than BlackBerry. And while not everyone will agree, the numbers do favour his stance.

Last week, we reported that RIM’s BlackBerry platform is losing developer interest rapidly; in just three months, the amount of developers interested in the platform dropped by 20%. Meanwhile, a remarkable 90% of developers are “very interested” in iOS and 80% in Android.

So as it turns out, four years ago, Jack was right in his prediction: he knew where the puck was, but also where it was going to be, and that’s where he played. He’s had success with Clio. And it sounds like he would be a pretty smart hockey player, too.

Photo: Tom Baker