In recent times, RIM has been in turmoil, with internal squabbling, falling sales, a poorly received tablet, worldwide service outages and a 60 per cent share price drop all contributing to a sense that the company has lost its way.
In a bid to turn thing around, at the BlackBerry DevCon, the company has announced an update to the beleaguered PlayBook tablet which it hopes will make the device a lot more attractive to potential customers. It has also detailed the next generation of it mobile software, called BBX which will work on both smartphone and tablets but won’t be launched until 2012.
PlayBook OS 2.0
When the PlayBook launched earlier this year, we were seriously impressed with the 7in tablet in terms of hardware and usability. However a lack of apps, including native email and BBM apps, was the devices’ downfall.
With the introduction of the Developer Beta of PlayBook OS 2.0, the Canadian company will be hoping that is all about to change. 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.
RIM Co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis, giving the keynote address at BlackBerry DevCon.
Developers will have to install the BlackBerry-specific plugin for the native Android development environment, called Eclipse, or they can choose to re-package apps online through the new BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps.
Apps will then need to be submitted to RIM for approval and there will be some limitations regarding the type of apps which will be able to be ported to the BlackBerry OS. RIM claims that 70 per cent of Android apps will be able to be ported unchanged.
In a bid to entice developers to port their apps to the BlackBerry platform, RIM has said that it will be a lucrative market with developers promised more money than they currently get from the iOS or Android ecosystems.
OS 2.0 also supports Adobe Air 3.0 and Adobe Flash 11, as well as WebGL for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics within the browser.
Developers at the conference are getting free PlayBooks pre-loaded with the updated software but if you’re not at the conference and enjoying your free PlayBook, you can get more information here.
Having a look at the video above from CrackBerry, there have also some major UI redesigns with a customisable homescreen dock and the ability to create folders to group similar apps.
At the same time as Google was launching its unified smartphone and tablet OS, Android 4.0, RIM unveiled BBX, which will launch next year on both smartphones and tablets.
BBX aims to combine the well-known and well-supported BlackBerry OS with the modern feel of the QNX-based PlayBook OS and will offer a unified platform for development.
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.
The BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework will also be included and promises advanced graphics and could herald the birth of “Super App” capabilities on RIM devices. These capabilities will include deep integration between apps, always-on Push services and the BBM Social Platform.While it may support Android apps, BBX won't run the current crop of BlackBerry apps which RIM has said was not an easy decision to take. We won't be seeing BBX until next year when it will launch on "future unnamed devices."
Do you think that the update to the PlayBook software will be enough to make it a top-class tablet? And looking further ahead, can BBX help RIM make up the ground it has lost to Apple and Android in the last year? Let us know in the comments.