RIM Unveils Next-Gen BBX Development Platform
At BlackBerry DevCon Americas 2011
, Research In Motion unveiled BlackBerry BBX, its next-generation platform designed to combine the best of the BlackBerry platform with the best of QNX
to connect people, devices, content, and services.
The company also announced a series of developer tool updates, including WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook, and a developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 with support for Android applications.
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 currently available for the BlackBerry PlayBook, including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps
BBX will also include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework
for advanced graphics, and will bring “Super App” functionality to enable advanced capabilities including deep integration between apps, always-on Push services, the BBM Social Platform, and more.
The BlackBerry WebWorks APIs are supported by the Ripple Emulator
, a standalone browser-like emulation tool designed to allow developers to test and debug their applications on multiple platforms and devices without having to compile or launch simulators. The Ripple Emulator is now available in beta and can also be downloaded from RIM’s WebWorks Developer site
The company also announced the immediate availability of the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook (1.0 gold release), which allows developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native C/C++ applications, and enables developers to create advanced 2D and 3D games and other apps with access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open AL, as well as device-specific APIs.
Applications developed with the Native SDK will run today on the BlackBerry PlayBook and will also be compatible on forthcoming BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
The Native SDK include support for C/C++ POSIX library and compliance, device events like gesture swipes and touchscreen input, access to code management systems including industry standard Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tools), and advanced debug and analysis tools.
QNX Momentics Tool Suite, an Eclipse-based integrated development environment, is included. The suite provides memory profiling, application debugging, and memory usage statistics to help developers debug sophisticated programs, including hardware-accelerated OpenGL applications.
RIM has also showcased BlackBerry Cascades, a rich user interface framework coming to a future release of the Native SDK. Cascades enables a new breed of design-centric mobile applications and provides developers with a full feature set for creating interfaces with custom layouts, animations, effects, and 3D graphics.
These features, along with a strong set of built-in core user interface components, are intended to help developers build native applications with innovative user interfaces for the current BlackBerry PlayBook and future BBX-based tablets and smartphones. Cascades is expected to be available in beta later this fall.
Adobe Air 3.0 Support
The BlackBerry PlayBook now supports the recently announced Adobe AIR 3.0 runtime. Among the supported features are Encrypted Local Store, which gives developers the ability to use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt and securely store sensitive information on the device, as well as store passwords, keys, or credit card information safely with the app; StageText, which allows developers to take advantage of native text controls and the native interaction behaviors of those controls; Multitouch and Gestures built into applications to provide improved usability; and more.
PlayBook OS 2.0
RIM also introduced the Developer Beta version of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0. The Developer Beta includes the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and the BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools (ADT), enabling developers to bring Android applications to BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
The BlackBerry Plug-In for ADT (an Eclipse plug-in) extends a developer’s existing Eclipse Android development environment to support the PlayBook, and includes the BlackBerry PlayBook Simulator for developers to test and debug apps before submitting them to the BlackBerry App World. Developers can also test and debug apps on a PlayBook running the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 – Developer Beta.
Android developers can also repackage Android apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook online by using the BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps
, a Web tool that guides developers through a step-by-step process of testing their apps for compatibility with the PlayBook, then repackaging and signing their apps for submission to BlackBerry App World, all without downloading any tools.
The BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Developer Beta also supports Abode Air 3.0 and Adobe Flash 11, as well as WebGL, which brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the browser without installing additional software, allowing developers to generate rich, interactive 3D graphics within the BlackBerry WebWorks application.
RIM also announced the BlackBerry Open Source Initiative to port popular open-source libraries to the BlackBerry PlayBook platform. Libraries already available include physics engines such as Bullet Physics and Box2DX, scripting languages such as Lua, multimedia libraries including OpenAL and SDL, gaming frameworks including Cocos2DX, and general-purpose libraries such as Boost and Qt.
“With nearly 5 million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers,” RIM president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a statement. “At DevCon … we’re giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications and we’re providing direction on how to best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms converge into our next generation BBX platform.”