Today RIM announced that they’re expanding the developer ecosystem not only with a native SDK that high-end game developers have been toying with privately on the PlayBook tablet, but also two app layers to run legacy BlackBerry apps, as well as Android 2.3 apps, as speculated at great length. Android apps will be found in the App World, after being repackaged and resubmitted by developers, and will have their own dedicated run-time environment on the PlayBook. Aside from that, game developers will now be able to use Unity and Airplay for 3D modeling and animation.
This is a huge move, since it will could potentially populate the BlackBerry PlayBook with hundreds of thousands of apps, when it would have otherwise launched with considerably fewer purpose-build QNX apps. The one bottleneck is getting developers to make the port and resubmission, and how easy that will be is anybody’s guess. I’m not sure if RIM is exactly wrestling developers away from Google, but it would be a good introduction of established Android devs to the BlackBerry landscape. It will also be interesting to see if this app wrapper will work as efficiently and smoothly as a proper Android app on an Android device.
The PlayBook was built with this kind of support in mind, since RIM started off with support for Adobe AIR apps and WebWorks, and indicated clearly that the tablet would be able to handle several other types of development environments. The hardware will certainly be able to handle whatever developers have to throw at it – it has a dual-core 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 7-inch 1024 x 600 display, a 5 megapixel and 3 megapixel camera, plus Wi-Fi, GPS, and 3G through a Bluetooth-tethered smartphone (4G version is on the way).
Full release on page 2.
UPDATE: So, one of the callers from RIM’s quarterly conference call today grilled co-CEO Jim Balsillie on whether or not developers will still have any reason to write apps for QNX if they’re already involved Android. This set Balsillie off into a lengthy speech about how this move is specifically to address the demand for app “tonnage”, and that this means BlackBerry can wash its hands of any “religious” affiliations. He also emphasized that Android apps on PlayBook would not run as well as native apps. The PlayBook isn’t supporting Honeycomb, the tablet-optimized version of Android, and that rich, powerful apps wouldn’t run as well in the PlayBook’s run-time wrapper as well as something made in the native SDK. That might not be a problem for simpler apps, or even the more robust ones that simply want to test the waters in App World, but it will be for end-users that want to run Android apps at full fidelity.