Research in Motion today launched its online applications catalog, dubbed App World in response to competitors like Apple and Google who already offer exclusive applications in the marketplace.

RIM expects about 1,000 applications to be available this week, with more in the future. Users have to first download a smartphone application to connect to the App World Web site, via cellular or Wi-Fi links.

The store is currently only available in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, but more countries will soon be added.

Apple's App Store keeps 30 percent of revenue from each software that is sold, while RIM plans to charge a 20 percent commission on sales through its App World store.

RIM president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis states, The BlackBerry platform provides a truly unparalleled mobile experience for millions of people and we are thrilled today to enhance that experience with a new app store that helps connect consumers with developers and carriers.

BlackBerry App World aggregates a wide variety of personal and business apps in a way that makes it very easy for consumers to discover and download the apps that suit them while preserving the appropriate IT architecture and controls required by our enterprise customers, he added.

The unexpected success of Apple's iTunes-related App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch has fueled rivals to match the offering, creating a place where mobile users can find, buy and download applications directly to their handheld devices. Besides RIM, both Microsoft and Nokia have recently announced their plans to create similar online catalogs. One issue facing the new arrivals but not Apple: having to support multiple device models and OS versions.

Features of App World include the following:

-- Front page carousel, for browsing featured applications

-- Top Downloads, an area on App World that lists the most-downloaded applications

-- Application categories such as productivity and utilities, professional and business, personal finance and banking and entertainment.

-- Keyword search

-- Application reviews

-- An application recommendation capability for users to recommend applications to others

-- Application storage

App World offers both free and paid applications (currently only those with a one-time fee) for smartphones with version 4.2.0 or higher of the BlackBerry operating system. Applications will be for the Bold, Storm, Pearl (including Pearl Flip), Curve 8300 and 8900 series, and 8800 series devices. Older trackwheel models are not supported. Any application that can be packaged as a compiled Java .COD file (a RIM file format) can be deployed on App World.