At BlackBerry DevCon Americas 2011, Research In Motion (RIM) unveiled BlackBerry BBX, its next generation mobile platform that takes the best of the BlackBerry platform and the best of the QNX platform to connect people, devices, content and services on its next generation platform for smartphones and tablets.
In addition, RIM announced a series of developer tool updates, including WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook and a developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 with support for running Android applications. RIM also provided direction for developers on how to best develop and monetise their BlackBerry applications for today and for the future.
"With nearly 5 million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at RIM. "At DevCon today, we're giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications and we’re providing direction on how to best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms converge into our next generation BBX platform."
BBX is designed to enable a powerful real-time mobile experience. The BBX platform will include BBX-OS, and will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers. BBX will also support applications developed using any of the tools available today for the BlackBerry PlayBook – including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps – on future BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
BBX will also include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework for advanced graphics (shown for the first time today), and bring “Super App” capabilities to enable many advanced capabilities including deep integration between apps, always-on Push services, the BBM Social Platform, and much more.
The BlackBerry WebWorks APIs are supported by the Ripple Emulator, a standalone, high-fidelity browser-like emulation tool that allows developers to test and debug their applications on multiple platforms and devices without having to compile or launch simulators.
The company also announced today the immediate availability of the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook (1.0 gold release). The Native SDK allows developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native C/C++ applications and enables developers to create advanced 2D and 3D games and other apps with access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open AL, as well as device specific APIs. Applications developed with the Native SDK will run today on the BlackBerry PlayBook and will be forwardly compatible on BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
The Native SDK includes support for C/C++ POSIX library and compliance, device events like gesture swipes and touch screen inputs, access to code management systems using industry standard Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tools) and advanced debug and analysis tools. QNX Momentics Tool Suite, an Eclipse-based integrated development environment, is included. It provides memory profiling, application debugging, and memory usage statistics to help developers debug sophisticated programs, including hardware accelerated OpenGL applications.
The Native SDK makes the development and porting of game applications to the BlackBerry PlayBook an attractive proposition for developers. Well known game publishers, developers and major game engine companies have already started to bring their game titles and applications to the platform.
Also part of the announcement was BlackBerry Cascades, a rich user interface framework coming to a future release of the Native SDK, unleashing new design centric mobile applications and providing developers with a feature set for creating visually stunning interfaces with custom layouts, animations, effects and 3D graphics. These features, combined with a strong set of built-in core user interface components, will make it easy to build beautiful native applications with innovative user interfaces for the current BlackBerry PlayBook and future BBX-based tablets and smartphones. Cascades is scheduled to be made available in beta later this fall.
Adobe AIR 3.0 Support is part of BBX, enabling developers to produce highly functional applications for the BlackBerry PlayBook that can integrate with the underlying OS and will be supported on future BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
The BlackBerry PlayBook now supports the recently announced Adobe AIR 3.0 runtime. Among the supported features are Encrypted Local Store that gives developers the ability to use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt and securely store sensitive information on the device, as well as store passwords, keys or credit card information safely within the app; StageText that allows developers to take advantage of native text controls and the native interaction behaviours of those controls; Multitouch and Gestures built into applications to provide great usability; and more.
RIM introduced today the Developer Beta version of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0. The Developer Beta includes the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and the BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools (ADT), allowing developers to quickly and easily bring Android applications to BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
The BlackBerry Plug-In for ADT (an Eclipse plug-in) extends a developer's existing Eclipse Android development environment to support the PlayBook, and includes the BlackBerry PlayBook Simulator for developers to test and debug their apps before submitting them to BlackBerry App World. Developers can also test and debug their apps on a PlayBook running the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 - Developer Beta.
Android developers can also repackage Android apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook online by using the BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps. The web tool guides developers through a step-by-step process, allowing them to test their apps for compatibility with the PlayBook, and repackage and sign their apps for submission to BlackBerry App World, all without downloading any tools.
BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and the associated tools allow Android developers to easily expand their market to include BlackBerry PlayBook users, and hence increase their apps’ market potential.
The BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 - Developer Beta also supports Adobe Air 3.0 and Adobe Flash 11, as well as WebGL, a new web technology that brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the browser without installing additional software. Developers will be able to generate rich, interactive 3D graphics within their BlackBerry WebWorks application.