Video: Hands-on with the BlackBerry PlayBook Android app player

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An early build of the Android app player leaked today, and I got it up and running on my BlackBerry PlayBook. Wanna check it out? It’s still pretty basic, and by the looks of things, you can only run core Android applications. Still, the browser runs fine, and despite a bit of lagginess, the native Android keyboard works in both landscape and portrait orientations. Playing around with the beta Android Player does take a bite out of battery life, but that tends to be the last thing that’s looked at before shipping. When RIM eventually releases this for realz later this summer, they’ll enable developers to submit their Android apps to BlackBerry App World, and have them sold and downloaded just like anything else in there.

Navigation is pretty straightforward, as you can see in the video below; a downward swipe from the top touch-sensitive pane is like pressing the menu key on a standard Android phone. A diagonal swipe from the bottom pane is like hitting the back button. Native app switching via upward swipe from the bottom or inward swipes from the sides is retained. How do you get it installed?

First you’ll need to have the BlackBerry Java Runtime Environment installed. Then you’ll need to download the .BAR file for the Android Player (quick, before RIM takes it down!). After that, you’ll need to get DDPB installer to sideload .BAR files (and others, if you’re interested in trying something else later). Then you’ll need to put your PlayBook into developer mode from the options menu. After you give it a password to use, tap the new icon at the top to find your PlayBook’s IP address, punch that into the DDPB installer once your PlayBook’s plugged in via USB, and you should be set to install the .BAR. It’ll take a little while to load, as well as boot up for the first time, but once it has, you’ll see a mostly-blank screen. Swipe down from the top to pull up the menu, and you can change the view to see all installed files. Voila!

Some core stuff like Bluetooth, camera, GPS, accessing the file system and Wi-Fi control are still absent, but the source says this app player is actually fairly old, so don’t jump to conclusions. From what we’ve seen in official demos, the execution is actually pretty smooth, and if app developers can be convinced to submit their completed Android apps to the BlackBerry App World, I think it will make the PlayBook a much more appealing device.

Update: Got a note from RIM.

“An older version of the Android App Player beta software for the BlackBerry PlayBook was inadvertently posted and has since been removed.  We recommend that users refrain from downloading and installing this software since it is outdated and non-functional in many respects.  The official beta release of the Android App Player for the BlackBerry PlayBook is on track for release later this summer.”

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