Free or Paid? BlackBerry AppWorld adds in app payments with version 2.1

RIM is currently in the process of rolling out version 2.1 of BlackBerry AppWorld. The main two features are support for the BlackBerry PlayBook, and in application payments. For version 2.0 the backend was rolled out about two months before the update was available on devices. Assuming a similar delay this time would put the rollout of version 2.1 just before February and the release of the BlackBerry PlayBook.

In App payments however represent a different economy then BlackBerry currently has. While there will continue to be many clear cut cases, there is a lot of ambiguity over if some applications will be considered free or paid. This additional payment options blurs the lines a bit.

Consider for example an game in which the first 10 levels are free, but you need to make an in-app payment in order to access the next 40 levels. In essence, this would be a demo and a paid application. However given that it is a single app, it is a bit harder to quantify. On one hand, the application can be downloaded without any payment, so it may be considered to be free. At the same time the heart of the game is a paid application.

How would BlackBerry AppWorld handle such an application? There is no upfront cost, but saying that it is free creates false expectations. Those expectations are what makes such options difficult for developers. If someone were to download a game expecting it to be free, they would feel tricked if they later found out that they were required to pay in order to play most of it. With pricing soon to be more complex then a simple dollar value, it becomes more important for developers to clearly lay out the expectations for their applications.