Analysis: The new RIM BlackBerry devices, including the Storm, come with a host of new and exciting features. Now RIM is rolling out a software development kit for the BlackBerry that lets Java developers take advantage of these features.
In the computing world, the hardware is often a step or two ahead of
the software. The simple reason is that once the hardware is released,
it takes time before software developers start creating applications
for the new hardware.
Such is the case with BlackBerry. However, the latest versions of the Blackberry devices-including the Storm
have an SDK (software development kit) that lets Java developers create
software that takes advantage of all the great new features in the
For example, the Storm has a lot of cool new features, including an
accelerometer-a built-in motion sensing device that lets the Storm know
what angle it's being held at relative to the ground so that the screen
can automatically rotate 90 degrees when you hold the Storm in your
Additionally, the Storm features a full-size touch screen, unlike
previous BlackBerry models that divided the front of the device between
screen and keyboard, as well as other new features.
To accommodate these new features, Research In Motion, which
manufactures the BlackBerry, has released a beta version of the new
SDK, including programmatic support for the new features. In this
article I'll look at what's available in the new SDK, including some
new and some not-so-new features.
The motion-sensing devices seem to be all the craze these days, and
I'm one person who has fallen for it, having recently bought a Nintendo
Wii. Although mobile devices such as the Storm use a totally different
technology from the Wii (the Wii uses infrared transmitters and
software triangulation), as well as Apple's iPhone (which has a
patent), the end result is the same cool feeling that the device
somehow knows where it is relative to the Planet Earth. (I tried to get
information on how the one in the Storm works by searching the online
U.S. Patent database. I quickly became frustrated after discovering
that RIM has nearly 1,200 patent applications in process that haven't
yet been approved. However, I did locate a patent application that
seems to describe it. If you're curious, go here
and search patent applications for publication number 20080034321.)
To accommodate the accelerometer, the SDK includes APIs for
detecting both the orientation of the device (either the top is up, or
the left side is up), and the acceleration of the device. By detecting
the device's orientation, your application can change its orientation
between portrait and landscape accordingly. In addition, by sensing
acceleration, your application can detect movement along all three
coordinates in space.
The only stickler is that the application shouldn't constantly poll
the accelerometer. According to the documentation, the accelerometer
takes a great deal of battery power, and shouldn't be on constantly.
This is because when an application opens a channel to the
accelerometer device, the BlackBerry continuously polls the motion
sensors. Therefore, your application should poll it periodically only
as needed. (Although I suppose in the case of a game, a user would need
to poll at a high rate to keep up with user movements. The key there is
for the user to open a connection to the motion sensor, get the data,
and immediately close the connection. Then on the next poll, do the
Finally, the Storm has built-in capabilities to turn the screen
sideways when the device moves. The application can query the current
orientation, and even turn off this default behavior.
The APIs include support for the touchscreen. The device can detect
when the user pushes on the touchscreen, when the user moves the finger
across the touchscreen, and when the user lets go of the touchscreen.
Additionally, the device can capture events for gestures, and even
double-taps (the latter of which is missing on a lot of touchscreen
What's interesting about the Storm's touchscreen is that not only
can a user touch it like any other touchscreen, they can actually push
on it, and the screen will click like a large button. When I first
heard about this, I thought that was a little odd, but it actually has
a great benefit in the way of not accidentally clicking when you don't
want to. The software in turn can respond to just touches as well as
clicks of the screen. At a low level, a user can receive events for
pushing a click on the screen, and letting go of a click on the screen.
The touchscreen includes a built-in on-screen keyboard that the
application can also make use of. In addition to simply reading text
from the keyboard, the application can control the keyboard itself. The
application can determine if the keyboard is visible, and can also
display or hide the keyboard.