Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Laziridis quickly gave yet
another apology for the recent three-day service outage and said
the company continues to try to find the cause, as he opened the
BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Then
he switched gears into propeller-head mode, addressing developers
directly with RIM's new all-encompassing platform, called BBX.
In other words, RIM was determined not to let the negative news
derail what the company appears to have been working so hard on:
building better relationships with developers, providing them with
better tools, and making the process of creating BlackBerry apps
Those efforts include the following:
- BBX is a POSIX-compliant environment, meaning that it supports
a variety of development libraries, including C++, and the company
is committed to working with practically any development library,
possibly baking those libraries into BBX if there's enough support
for doing so. On stage, RIM and its partners demonstrated a couple
of different examples, like the Ideaworks Game Studio's Marmalade
platform. Ideaworks Game Studio President Alex Caccia said that the
porting Marmalade was incredibly easy--characterizing it as complex
as pushing a "convert" button. He then demonstrated the company's
popular game, Lara Croft And The Guardian Light.
- BBX includes Cascades, a native user interface platform from
The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), which RIM acquired over a year ago.
This framework, RIM said, makes it easier for developers to achieve
some great effects, but with very little code--essentially a matter
of setting properties and configuring how the user interface should
- RIM is aggregating a series of developer outreach efforts into
what it calls BlackBerry Jam. Normally this is the sort of thing
that falls into a run-of-the-mill developer outreach effort, but
Alec Saunders, VP of Developer Relations and Ecosystems, brought
the program home by recognizing developer community members who
have been the most active forum members, even breaking it down by
those who post frequently in the AIR forum.
As part of those Jam efforts, RIM has started BlackBerry Jam
Zone, a site that helps developers quickly make choices about how
they want to develop an application, and then get access via
microsites to all of the necessary tools. From those microsites,
you can simply download the SDK (native, AIR, tools for converting
Android apps) that you need without registration, a major change
from RIM's practices. Developers only need to register to submit an
app to AppWorld. This aspect of the general session got the most
actual applause from the audience of developers.
RIM seems to get the point that in order for users to stop
abandoning BlackBerry smart phones and running toward iPhone and
Android adoption, there must be great applications. Conversely,
developers need to see that there are still plenty of users. And
for developers to provide great applications, the tools and
processes must get better, easier, and more ubiquitous.
The company already supports HTML5 apps, now with even deeper
access to the device functions (in fact RIM demonstrated an HTML5
application called Tunnteltilt that drove sound through the
Playbook's HDMI port; it also included WebGL capability,
demonstrating that the 3D graphics engine is part of the WebWorks
development kit.) It also supports AIR apps (there are over 4,000
AIR applications in the BlackBerry App World, according to Danny
Winokur, Adobe's VP & General Manager of Interactive
Development; this includes Evernote), and Android apps running in a
virtual machine on the BlackBerry platform. The goal, Laziridis
said, is to make HTML5 apps feel just like a native app. He
obviously thinks the company has achieved this goal, at least with
the applications demonstrated on stage.
RIM spent a great deal of time--as most companies do at these
sorts of events--overwhelming developers with statistics. For
example: -- The BlackBerry App World is the second most profitable
app market place today, next to Android.
- There are now 70 million BlackBerry users, compared with 50
million a year ago.
- BlackBerry App World is available in 130 countries, and it
supports more than 26 currencies.
- There have been more than one billions apps downloaded;140
million apps are downloaded each month; and 5 million downloads are
happening each day.
- RIM counts more than 50 million BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
users, compared to 28 million a year ago.
The company also said that while there are 200 BBM-connected
apps, those apps now drive 10 percent of application revenue. RIM
also made a big deal about all of the ways developers could make
money: Directly (Credit Card, PayPal, Carrier Billing), in-app
purchases, and subscriptions--clearly a knock on the narrow
monetization view Apple has taken.
Balance work and play
RIM also made a significant enterprise announcement. Alan
Panezic, RIM's VP of Product Management and Marketing, came on
stage to talk about Balance, an existing product for the BlackBerry
line, that helps IT and end users separate consumer activity and
enterprise activity. In BBX, Panezic said, Balance will come
directly into the app, without any work from developers.
Essentially, any application that is designated as a "work" app
will require a password to login. That way, users don't have to
login on a system-wide basis; only when they're doing corporate
Those apps get provisioned that way by IT from the BlackBerry
Enterprise Server (BES)--that's right, the Playbook will now talk
directly to BES, allowing all of the IT control that BlackBerry
smart phones offer. IT can now provision apps selectively, and on
the Playbook, users will have a navigation area called "work."
What's more, there will now be a "work" area on App World--one
where corporations can place their internally developed
applications. IT can also use this area to enforce a host of
pre-defined applications on a push basis. Users can't delete or
alter those applications.
Clearly RIM gets that it has a captive IT audience, and it is
doing everything it can to play up its strengths in the enterprise.
Well done, if it still matters. Laziridis also seemed to be very
pleased Citrix Receiver running on the Playbook, ooh-ing and ah-ing
at what most people recognize as normal Citrix functionality.