Research In Motion (RIM) on Tuesday kicked off its annual BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference in San Francisco, giving developers a closer look at BBX, the company's new mobile platform, which RIM President and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said combines "the best of QNX and BlackBerry.”
Opening keynotes from the conference were broadcast live on RIM's website. The 3-hour demo-laden presentation should put to rest any rumors that RIM was thinking about abandoning the BlackBerry PlayBook, the company's first tablet and QNX-based device. The company relied almost exclusively on the PlayBook for demonstrations throughout the program.
Lazaridis laid down some interesting stats to get things started, saying that RIM has seen year-over-year subscriber numbers rise from 50 million to 70 million. The company has sold roughly 165 million smartphones to date and has seen over 1 billion downloads from the BlackBerry App World.
In addition to pitching its relevance, RIM announced a series of developer tool updates, including WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook and a developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 with support for running Android applications.
The BBX platform will include BBX-OS and will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers. BBX will also support applications developed using any of the tools available today for the BlackBerry PlayBook – including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps – on future BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated aspect of Tuesday's keynotes was the announcement of the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and the BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools (ADT), which would allow developers to bring Android applications to BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
The BlackBerry Plug-In for ADT (an Eclipse plug-in) extends a developer's existing Eclipse Android development environment to support the PlayBook and includes the BlackBerry PlayBook Simulator for developers to test and debug their apps before submitting them to BlackBerry App World. Developers can also test and debug their apps on a PlayBook running the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 - Developer Beta.
Android developers can also repackage Android apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook online by using the BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps. The web tool guides developers through a step-by-step testing process for compatibility with the PlayBook. Developers can then repackage and sign their apps for submission to BlackBerry App World without downloading any tools.
BBX will also include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework, developed by RIM acquisition The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), which will allow developers to enable capabilities like deep integration between apps, always-on push services and the BBM Social Platform, among others.
Lazaridis began the day by addressing the recent widespread outages of the BlackBerry network. It was the perfect way to open the festivities aimed at a crowd of developer attendees, as the company has offered up $100 in premium apps to those affected by the outage.