Android apps on BlackBerry PlayBook – I don’t like it

Android apps on BlackBerry PlayBook - I don\'t like it
Android apps on BlackBerry PlayBook - I don't like it

By now, you’ve probably heard that the BlackBerry PlayBook will run Android 2.3 apps in a “sandbox” or emulator environment and my quick, pool side reaction is that I don’t like this because I believe that it is a short-sighted move that undercuts Research In Motion’s QNX platform before it has any time to gather steam.

I get the motive behind it: The BlackBerry PlayBook will now have access to Android 2.3 apps at launch, meaning that the newly-built QNX platform won’t be app-less (or near app less) at launch. This should also entice developers to bring their apps to the BlackBerry PlayBook because this should just be a platform layer that’s easy to implement. This is covering all the bases.

I think it is a good move in the short term but I don’t like it because it seems like RIM doesn’t have confidence in its QNX or WebWorks platform. In short, RIM is being scared and it’s not being bold.

I was a big fan of the BlackBerry PlayBook when it was introduced near six (!) months ago and I felt that the QNX platform was an extremely positive step that should trickle down to the smartphones. Yes, building a new platform from the ground up is extremely tough, as is attracting developers to this, but RIM had WebWorks as its ace up the sleeve.

WebWorks was billed as RIM’s solution for web developers who weren’t very familiar with native development. It is solid for those who are not yet committed to giving the unproven QNX a go.

By giving developers the option to just repackage and re-submit Android apps into the BlackBerry App World, I believe RIM is showing a disturbing lack of faith in its platforms and in web apps. Android apps will be running in an emulator environment too, which means only those that aren’t complex will run well, so I don’t know how that helps consumers beyond the app store number race.

Of course, developers have to repackage their Android apps for the BlackBerry App World but I’m unsure how many resources it has to ensure that these programs run smoothly on the BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM is trying to cast a wide net with Flash, AIR, native app, Android and Webworks development and I’m sure that app makers will appreciate the options but I’m unclear if this will lead to amazing experiences for the end users.

I asked Simon if having a cruddy version of Angry Birds on the PlayBook is better than nothing at all and he said, “Of course.” I’m not quite sure about that. I believe that people loves apps because the ones that they use are good experiences on the device. Having a sh*tty version of Angry Birds is not going to be a good experience for RIM, Rovio or the end users.

That’s why this seems like a half-hearted, stop-gap measure to spur the developer ecosystem. Having the number of apps to brag about is cool but so is having a smaller number of high-quality apps that people actually want to use – I don’t care if that’s a native experience or a web-based Webworks version.

Microsoft was able to spur its developer ecosystem by paying people to create apps for Windows Phone 7 and, while I don’t expect RIM to throw out that kind of coin, I believe that RIM focusing on what it does well is better than a jack of all trades, master of none approach.

Well friends, let me know why I’m wrong in the comments.

  • I think that’s a rather negative reaction… what’s important here is the consumer spin, “It runs Android applications too.”

    Now, if the actual reality is that the PlayBook runs every Android application very, very badly, then the consumer will evaluate that accordingly. However if it’s half-decent and workable, I think the end consumer (and enterprise) will view this as a +1 for the PlayBook.

    • JusCoolin

      Same here…..

    • Marin

      I understand you point but I don’t think that Android apps at a half-decent or workable rate is good for consumers. Yes, it makes for a better short-term marketing pitch to say it can run Android apps but I don’t know if that’s a better long-term solution.

      • It’s a brilliant solution! Right now hardly any developers are looking at the PlayBook platform. The fact their apps will work on it without doing anything is a very helpful bonus (“our app now works on the PlayBook”). That will help get attention. I then think a lot of developers will be motivated to make a ‘better’ (ie Native) version for the PlayBook. It’s all about how the run-time works. If it’s poorly implemented this whole discussion is irrelevant.

  • Anonymous

    I think its great… I would love to be able to do this on my ipad… if for no other reason than “because I can”…

  • Anonymous

    Any developer worth a damn who initially ports their Android app to Playbook and sees success will logically be drawn to the more deeper level of access that for example the NDK will provide. So RIM isn’t giving up on QNX. They’re not stupid. It’s hard getting developers on board. See WEBOS.

    All the naysayers have said the biggest weakness for RIM is their lack of Apps. This adds potentially thousands more that can easily be ported. And what’s incentive not to? developers can easily repackage their current Android apps and submit them to Appworld.

  • Anonymous

    Take a glance at the Myriad Dalvik demos. Seems to run okay on the n900, and the apps are integrated into the regular homescreen. i think people have this idea that they’re running one of those crappy emulators that struggle on n64 games or something. That won’t be the case I don’t think.

    You think Angry Birds is going to run cruddily? Angry Birds is already coming to Facebook (im guessing in Flash Format), so the Playbook will have one more place it can run Angry Birds than the iPad.

  • Ryan

    Why would you assume Angry Birds will run based off of their android build? It was written in C, playbook supports development in C…

    I’d also be interested to see if they’re “emulating” android, or just skimming the JVM+ layer off of the OS for compatibility.

  • Roger A

    Is it just me, or do you just bag on BlackBerry non stop Marin?

    BlackBerry and Android together is awesome. Period. Best of both.

    • Anonymous

      Nah. I’m a big fan of the PlayBook, always have been and have had multiple BlackBerry smartphones. I’m just not convinced it will be best of both. I’d rather have one strong platform than two middling ones on one device.

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  • Is’nt that disrespectful.

    Smh…well i hope it force close. lol

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