PlayBook App Development – Java Developers left out

I was very excited about the Playbook announcement because it will certainly bring some competition in this new market. As a customer, I don’t think the 7″ display is for me, but I’ll have a better opinion when I see and play with one. Butyou aren’t looking for a customer perspective, are you (if yes, Read Engadget instead) ?

For developers, the most noticeable feature is the new Tablet OS, an Operating System powered by the Neutrino RTOS developed by QNX Software Systems.

If you are as curious as me, QNX has a VMWare image available for evaluation of Neutrino RTOS (not the BB Tablet OS!). Pretty cool!

There are still very little information about the Blackberry Tablet OS, but RIM’s website shows this:

There are currently two application development approaches for the BlackBerry Tablet OS:

  • Web Applications with HTML5 — Developers will be able to create compelling applications using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript®, which leverage the WebKit rendering engine.
  • Web Applications with Flash — Leveraging Adobe’s tools, developers will be able to create visually rich applications using Flash 10.1.

So, where does the current Blackberry OS Java developer fit in this new picture? As far I could see, nowhere. At least, not now.

I believe all current Blackberry Java developers had thought: “Blackberry Tablet? Cool! I need to start get my current application prepared for this new platform. Probably hd graphics, more UI space to use… I’ll be ready to deploy my application on the launch day! Uhu!”. But the naked truth shows a not so bright future, since they decided to start with Flash and HTML5. No signal of porting the already existing Blackberry Java SDK to this new OS, which is the key to make the portability possible.

The QNX Neutrino is POSIX-certified, which makes its development environment very familiar for those used to work on Unix/Linux, and Java is already available there, so we can easily put our current BB applications to work there, right? Not so sure. The ability to use the Blackberry Java SDK doesn’t depend only on the OS ability to run Java, but also how the tablet UI will be and behave, how the SDK interfaces with all available devices (camera, gps, etc…) and, more important, how much freedom RIM will give to access the device “under-the-hood” capabilities.

On the bright side, allowing PlayBook to run Flash, and more than that, building the OS “with Flash in mind”, will bring to the customers a lot of new and interesting applications, games and who knows what else.

For Blackberry Java developers who wants to write PlayBook applications now, the best to do now is starting learning ActionScript. Maybe when you’re very good at it, RIM releases the Blackberry Java SDK for Tablet OS!

One other thing I’ve been reading over Internet (so it must be true), is that there is a big chance that the Tablet OS is the next Blackberry OS for smartphones as well. This makes a lot of sense since the new OS is targeted to embedded devices, RIM owns it, and the market would take a “incompatible” family of devices for too long.

The market is changing, and you cannot wait until everything is well settle, because it never will for real. As I I’d like to have a Crystal ball, you must pick up something to start with, so don’t worry (too much) and keep working.

  1. #1 by J. Rab on November 10, 2010 - 12:44 am


    Just wanted you to know i started following your site today… seems pretty interesting and since i just started out mobile development i thought i could relate. I’ve been programming on and off for years now and settled with PHP (hardly a language with any sort of structure hah) and got interested developing for blackberry. The playbook caught my eye and i started messing around with ActionScript and started reading this book ActionScript 3 Essentials. So far so good.

    good luck with everything!

    p.s. in case you hadnt already known… the playbook java sdk will eventually be available to use… its just not fully ready for use yet according to the recent webcast.

    • #2 by mobilecreator on November 10, 2010 - 8:29 am

      Hi, thanks for your comment. I’m very excited with the Playbook, too. I’m not exactly sure if it will have the desired market share, but my sense is that the tablets came to stay, so it is something to look at very carefully. I do know about the Java SDK, and probably there will be more options in the future, but it seems to me that they aren’t planning to release those SDKs before the Playbook release, so if you want to stay ahead, ActionScript/Flash is the right bet.

      I hope to hear more from you on future posts!

      Take care!


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