RIM Talks PlayBook Tablet App Dev

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By the time the PlayBook officially launches, RIM’s tablet will be outfitted with a music store, games, and other apps built on the Adobe Flash and RIM WebWorks platforms, but traditional Java-based BlackBerry business apps won’t be ready for the tablet until later, said a RIM executive at a New York City press event on Tuesday.

During hands-on demo sessions at the event, Kinsella wouldn?t comment on rumors this week that PlayBook might eventually run Android apps, or that the tablet will support NFC (Near Field Communications) tap-and-pay mobile transactions.

But we’ve made a commitment to Java, and we remain committed to Java,? Kinsella told me.

RIM also plans to offer a wireless keyboard for the 7-inch PlayBook, along with carrying case accessories for trendy consumers, according to the senior product manager.

Three Dev Environs

BlackBerry App WorldYet as RIM’s AppWorld starts to try playing catch-up with Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, developers trying to build apps for the PlayBook’s three planned development environments  Adobe AIR, RIM’s WebWorks, and Java — have voiced consternation over the complexities of registering with RIM and downloading multiple development tools.

Essentially, RIM’s WebWorks — formerly known as Widgets — is aimed at letting developers move Windows and Apple apps to PlayBook, while adding support for PlayBook-specific capabilities like BlackBerry sync and multi-touch gesturing with unique Swype bezel actions.

Developers have already been building Adobe Flash apps for the PlayBook in AIR. For its part, Java is the language long used by RIM’s relatively large group of business developer partners to produce apps for the BlackBerry OS that runs on RIM’s smartphones. All three environments will operate on PlayBook on top of a Unix Posix kernel called QNX.

The PlayBook prototypes shown at the event on Tuesday displayed icons for Adobe AIR Flash development tools plus a few dozen apps. I played around a bit with AIR apps like the Kobo eReader and Calendaring, which ran plenty smooth on RIM’s lightweight and slick-looking gadget.

BlackBerry PlayBookYet when I tried to access some of the other apps such as GAP, Always in Stock and SAP’s C-Suite Buyer, I found that these apps wouldn’t load at all.

Kinsella told me that those business apps either might or might not be available for PlayBook, and that the presence of the icons on the tablet is only meant to represent ‘what is possible’ for RIM’s tablet.

With only a few prototype units available at the demo sessions, I frankly didn’t have time during my quick hands-on to try clicking on some of the other icons, such as Adobe Reader, Calculator, Anatomy Quiz, and Elmo. So I can’t say for sure whether these apps were actually present on the PlayBook.

TAT on PlayBook

Kind of curiously, at the New York event, RIM did not highlight a pair of stylish WebWorks apps created by TAT (The Astonishing Tribe), a company just acquired by RIM, demo’d at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a few weeks back.

PlayBook Scrapbook AppOne of those apps, Scrapbook, illustrates the PlayBook’s multi-touch gestures by showing how they can be used to quickly resize photos and create 3D-like images.

The other one, a weather app called Aura, makes use of the PlayBook’s built-in accelerometer. Reportedly, TAT built Aura in WebWorks in less than a week.

On its still yet-to-be-determined launch date, RIM will ship ‘out of the box’ with a music store app, games like Tetrus and Need for Speed (also demo’d at the MCW), and a Camera app supporting the PlayBook’s dual cameras, Kinsella said.

But PlayBook is also a professional-grade tablet, and RIM is working with developers on building enterprise business apps for the device, according to the senior product manager.

Developer Discontent

BlackBerry PlayBookMeanwhile, at the end of last week, a Canadian-based developer named Jamie Murai issued an ‘Open Letter to RIM’s Developer Relations.’ Murai presented a litany of complaints over RIM’s multi-step developer registration and tools download process, which includes a requirement for a notarized Statement of Identification form . He also expressed dissatisfaction over RIM’s plans to charge developers a $200 App World registration fee in the future.

Tyrone Lessar, head of RIM’s BlackBerry Relations and Developer Programs team, then sat down with Murai over a cup of coffee during the weekend. On Sunday, Lessar posted a reply online thanking Mirai for his comments and outlining changes that RIM is making to its developer program in response to feedback from Murai and other developers.

Kinsella acknowledged to me on Tuesday that most of the early development activities for the PlayBook have centered on AIR. But the AIR and WebWorks development programs are both now under way, he elaborated.

Kinsella, though, blamed some of the lag time in WebWorks development on developers’ lack of familiarity with WebWorks, and on the name change from Widgets. Widgets wasn’t a good name, he admitted.

Ideally, WebWorks is designed to open up App World to developers outside the traditional BlackBerry world by letting developers build apps with pervasively used tools such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

WebWorks and AIR apps will both be ready in time for the PlayBook’s launch, he said. Some time later, RIM will enable developers to recompile BlackBerry apps originally built in Java for use on the RIM tablet.

Kinsella wouldn’t say whether or not any Android development activities are in the works for the PlayBook.




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