BlackBerry 10 is a completely new and unique operating system based on the QNX kernel. This article will provide a quick look at this new platform from a mobile developer’s perspective.
BlackBerry 10 Features
BlackBerry has termed their User Interface ‘Flow’. The interface speaks for itself with its efficiency and quick access to applications. With BlackBerry Flow, users can easily switch between applications without closing any of them. However, the number of applications is limited – only eight applications can be open simultaneously. Still, it is decent enough for multi-tasking.
This feature helps you organize all your messages, calls, social profiles, email accounts, etc. This feature can manage multiple accounts without opening an individual application for each one. It runs in the background continuously and will not miss any information.
By using this feature, users can have a quick glimpse at the notifications they receive without closing or exiting the application they are currently using. It won’t take more than a second for the user to swipe across the screen and all their notifications will be listed. For example, as demonstrated at the launch event, the user could view their emails without disturbing the YouTube video that was playing.
BlackBerry has always been the ‘King of Keyboards’. With this new operating system BlackBerry has lived up to its name and expectations. The touch keyboard in Z10 has a great built-in keyboard and is expected to dominate over the Android and iOS keyboards. Some other features include accurate auto correct and outstanding flicking word gestures. In addition to all the fantastic features, the BlackBerry 10 keyboard user can type in English, Spanish, and French concurrently.
Do you experience difficulty balancing your business profile from your personal one? BlackBerry has a solution for that called ‘BlackBerry Balance’. This is a useful feature for companies because if any of their employees use a personal BlackBerry handset for work, and due to some circumstance are leaving the company, the administrator can sweep out all the information that has been stored in the employee’s business profile. Sadly, this feature is limited to BlackBerry Enterprise Service users only.
BlackBerry Messenger has been revamped for the new operating system. Besides text chats between friends, users can video chat and share screens. BlackBerry claims that this feature is useful for those who want to share documents, PowerPoint slides, and spread-sheets.
Why Develop BlackBerry Apps?
The release of the Blackberry OS 10 sparked a wave of discussion about its future and BlackBerry OS applications. Blackberry also announced the BlackBerry World Catalogue, which had seventy thousand apps on the day of the OS release. That is clearly impressive. So, can we expect BlackBerry to steal the stage from giants like Android and iOS? Let’s consider this possibility. In this article, I’ll be talking more on the developer side, about how developing BlackBerry apps may or may not be profitable for mobile app developers.
When it comes to apps, Android Play has stolen the show. Conversion, or rather ‘re-packaging’ of Android apps for use as BlackBerry apps, is incredibly simple with Android Player. Companies usually have to focus on the development of their apps on several different platforms. They don’t mind spending to develop Android or iOS apps because it constitutes 95% of their user base. What really matters is their investment on the development of apps that cater to the needs of the remaining 5% of its customers. Microsoft’s Windows Phone Platform already competes for this share and we can even expect this margin to increase in the future. But that doesn’t solve the overriding issue, because developing apps for different platforms requires different languages – Java for Android, Objective-C for iOS, C# for Windows Phone, and C/C++ for BlackBerry 10 apps. So developers need to re-engineer the whole code base. Developers can’t just cross-compile their source code to develop apps on a different platform. This is the basic cross-platform compatibility issue for mobile applications. This is where Android Player helps. If someone already has an Android app, it can easily be re-packaged to work on the BlackBerry OS 10 framework, without having to re-program it. This means that companies can save money and time that otherwise would have been spent on developing an all new application. Thus investing in an Android app essentially means getting a BlackBerry app for free!
Developing BlackBerry 10 Apps
The following framework and languages can be used to develop BlackBerry apps:
C/C++ Native SDK:
This is the most basic native app framework. Installation goes on in the following manner:
- Get code signing keys and debug tokens for distributing apps. These include the RIM Developer Key (RDK) and the debug token (PBDT) file to generate debug tokens.
- Install the Native SDK (support for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux). The BlackBerry 10 Native SDK includes all of the tools – the QNX Momentics IDE, a compiler, a linker, libraries, and command-line tools – that is necessary to start developing applications for BlackBerry 10 devices.
- Install the Blackberry Device simulator because it helps test apps even without a BlackBerry 10 device.
- Set up the SDK and connect it with a device/simulator and upload the debug tokens to start developing. Using the QNX Momentics IDE, which is the primary development tool for all native applications, is recommended.
- Start the development by running the BlackBerry Deployment Setup Wizard on your system.
For more information, go to BlackBerry Native SDK.
Uses the Cascade Builder and the famous Qt Creator to help build BlackBerry apps.
For more information, go to BlackBerry Cascades.
This integrates HTML5/CSS/JS skills with core BlackBerry functionality. It also uses tools like the Ripple Emulator.
For more information, go to HTML5 Webworks.
Pre-developed Adobe AIR games or apps can be submitted using the BlackBerry SDK for Adobe AIR.
For more information, go to BlackBerry SDK for Adobe AIR.
Java Android Runtime:
This allows you to port your pre-developed Android/iOS apps to run perfectly on the Blackberry OS 10. You can use the BlackBerry Runtime for Android apps to run Android 2.3.3+ platform applications on the BlackBerry Tablet OS and BlackBerry 10. To use the runtime, first repackage your Android applications to BAR file format, which is the compatible file format required for an application to run on the BlackBerry Tablet OS and BlackBerry 10.
One of the following three tools can be used to repackage applications to BAR file format and also to check how compatible applications are to run on the BlackBerry Tablet OS or BlackBerry 10. Some of the APIs in the Android SDK may not be supported, or only partially supported by the BlackBerry Runtime for Android apps.
- Plug-in repackaging tool
- Online Packager
- Command line repackaging tools
For more information, go to BlackBerry Runtime for Android apps.
The following flow chart shows a few steps necessary to repackage Android applications to the BAR file format that the BlackBerry PlayBook OS and the BlackBerry 10 use. Then, the app is ready to be published on the BlackBerry World Catalogue.
Look at the BlackBerry Tablet OS Graphical Aid to simplify the process of packaging Android/HTML5/Actionscript apps into Bar files.
Many companies who have their app on the Blackberry 10 platform have given positive reviews. This platform has enabled them to develop applications that are enterprise-grade and user-friendly, as well as capable of meeting the needs of their global customers.
Our deep integration with BlackBerry 10 connects users directly with all of their business content on Box, delivering a secure collaboration experience with intuitive features for fast and fluid file sharing. Box has built native apps for every leading mobile platform and we’re excited to continue our great relationship of innovation with the RIM team.
- Karen Appleton, VP of Business Development at Box
If BlackBerry continues to support packaged apps, developers are expected to cling on to the platform.The various platform partners for BlackBerry help developers create apps with ease. The apps can be extensively linked with BlackBerry’s core functionality using multiple frameworks. This will make developing fun for developers.