Our first glimpse of Android apps running on the PlayBook was a little choppy, but now that RIM has opened up the App Player to developers, we’ve got a chance to see performance closer to what was demoed at BlackBerry World. RIM’s Chris Smith walked us through some of the apps that they’ve got working on the PlayBook, including Jewellust, IMDB, Pulse News, BBC News, Paper Toss, and more graphics-intensive affairs, such as this pool game, and a flight simulator called Winds of Steel.
While the goal is to have Android apps hanging out seamlessly among standard PlayBook apps, there are a few visual queues that differentiate them. The home screen icons have an additional background element, for one. Once launched, all Android apps run in a single window, with a multitasking pane along the bottom. That bar also has a back button, which was previously folded into a bezel gesture (which I actually preferred). (Update: After screwing around with the new App Player, it looks like the diagonal swipe = back gesture is still in there, but only if you chose to hide the multitasking bar through the settings menu.)
The performance so far is about as smooth as one could want from any app (native or otherwise), but I think the most interesting thing about Android on the PlayBook is the strategy. Generally, when a manufacturer gets involved with a new operating system, they’ll either adopt it wholesale as their new platform, or run it concurrently (and separately) from their established OS. Here, RIM is trying to get all the sweet stuff out of Android without having to deal with any of the messy OEM or licensing business. I’d be very curious to hear how Google feels about it all, but considering they’re open-sourcing code, they must have expected something like this sooner or later.
Currently, the forums are abuzz with people jamming the entire Ice Cream Sandwich OS onto the PlayBook, and posting .APKs for apps that are free on the Android Market to see if they work. Here’s a spreadsheet showing the results of early testing on BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0. Anyway, here’s a personal demo, or you can comb through the webcast DevCon general session replay to see some on-stage demos. Developers can head over here for more info on porting their apps.