Blackberry held its BB10 Jam World Tour here in New York at the Millennium Hotel in Midtown. Applico’s Matt Powers and Arun Venkatesan went, saw and ultimately came away underwhelmed. They were kind enough to provide a recap of their experiences for those not in attendance.
RIM wanted to highlight the key architecture shifts as they move from the BB5, BB6, and BB7 architecture to BB10. Those who are familiar with BB will see that instead of using Java to develop native apps, Blackberry now gives the developer the choice to develop HTML, C/C++, Adobe Air or Android based applications. Blackberry will be offering developers a certification option soon where developers are encouraged to have their app certified. If a developer’s app is certified and on App World by the BB 10 launch date, they guarantee that your application will make at least $10K. Details of the program and how you get certified are all TBD.
Development SDKs are now available, but there sadly is no hardware to match nor do they have release dates around it. The WebWorks API’s for developing HTML based applications is in flux, however and they plan on rolling out support through the summer.
The BB team highlighted the key architectural changes on the platform. You now have the choice of how you want to develop your applications, with many tools available to you.
We created a quick chart that highlights compatibility for different technologies with BB5 through BB10. You can find it here or by clicking the graphic below. A more detailed description is below.
If you want a truly “native” application you can design your applications front end using Cascades (Android developers can think of layout markup) with the code behind being C/C++. Blackberry is going to provide a VS plugin, Ripple plugin and also the ability to generate Cascade code directly from Photoshop.
For developing HTML based applications the company is pushing towards WebWorks, which is a wrapper line PhoneGap. WebWorks presents an interesting challenge in that BB5 doesn’t support WebKit, BB6 does, but it was a first implementation and BB7 web works runs on top of the Java runtime, where BB10 does not. Plugins and extensions written for WebWorks (let’s say you need to write an extension to integrate with the NFC chip on the phone) will need to be written twice, one implementation for BB7 and one implementation for BB10.
RIM will continue to support Flex application developers.
RIM supports a version of the Davlik runtime which means developers are free to try out their Android applications on BB10. That being said, anything that uses Google proprietary API’s will not work (think of the MapView), which severely hampers adoption. BB will be providing a validation tool that developers can run against the APK to validate whether the application will run on a BB10 device. Additionally they only support Android 2.3 and up.
In regards to the “poorly marketed” playbook, it has the same OS inconsistency. While BB10 runs WebWorks natively, the current OS on the Playbook runs WebWorks on top of the Adobe Air layer, they claim everything will work seamlessly but we have no way of knowing until BB10 is released on the PlayBook.
Blackberry is making a conscious effort to appeal to the development community giving developers all the tools to develop applications. That being said they have absolutely no recommendations on best practices for UIs, no recommendations on whether to use PhoneGap or WebWorks, and ABSOLUTELY no timeline for hardware and software releases. What’s even more concerning is the lack of belief in their own platform. I talked to the Senior BB Developer Evangelist and VP of the Developer Evangelist group about the platform, both are defects from Microsoft and both have started in recent months. I told them about how little requests that we have gotten as a company for Blackberry applications and they laughed.
Additionally I talked to the VP of marketing who couldn’t provide me with any demographic data to back up marketing slides that were presented at the keynote in the morning sessions. I was curious about who was downloading apps on App World, consumers vs. enterprise users and he simply said “we don’t track that”, which was astonishing. After speaking with a few people in the area that support Blackberry at the social event after, we all had the same takeaway that BB has no direction, no plan and really is in a state of disarray that is leaving the developers concerned about developing an app for the platform.
See our coverage on RIM’s initial unveiling of BB10.
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