RIM revealed its upcoming BBX operating system for BlackBerry tablets and smartphones. The new OS is QNX-based and intended to help the company battle Google and Apple.
Motion didn't whip back the curtain entirely from the QNX-based operating
system it expects will put its BlackBerry smartphones on a more competitive
footing with the likes of Apple's iPhone and Google Android, but RIM did offer
some details of that BBX platform at its BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference
in San Francisco.
BBX will power
both BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, and support the company's cloud
services. Although the operating system represents a refresh for RIM, having
been built from the ground up, the company is taking pains to link it with
previous work: BBX will apparently "support applications developed using any of
the tools available today for the BlackBerry PlayBook," according to an Oct. 18
statement released by the company, "including native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and
WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps."
A variation of
QNX already powers RIM's PlayBook tablet, for which the company introduced the
developer beta of its Blackberry PlayBook OS 2.0. That beta offers developers
the ability to port Android applications onto the tablets, a
strategic move that carries some risks for RIM: While it could increase the
popularity of the platform, by vastly expanding the ecosystem of available applications,
it also risks alienating those developers who poured so much time and effort
into developing BlackBerry applications.
precious few details about BlackBerry BBX's user interface or release date.
This stands in sharp contrast to some other recent conferences, such as
Microsoft's BUILD, which accompanied a detailed drill-down into an upcoming
platform (in Microsoft's case, Windows 8) with the unveiling of hardware loaded
today, we're giving developers the tools they need to build richer
applications," Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of RIM, wrote in an Oct. 18
statement tethered to the conference, "and we're providing direction on how to
best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms
converge into our next-generation BBX platform."
introduced a Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook (1.0 gold release), which
gives developers the ability to "build high-performance, multi-threaded, native
C/C++ applications, and enables developers to create advanced 2D and 3D games
and other apps with access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open AL." Applications
developed via that Native SDK are apparently forward-compatible with tablets
and smartphones running BBX.
RIM is pushing BlackBerry WebWorks SDK 2.2 for smartphones and tablets, for
building HTML5 applications with native capabilities, and Open Source libraries
for the PlayBook platform.
RIM is betting
big that its new generation of BBX products will allow it to compete against
the Apple iPhone and Google Android, which have swallowed up enormous chunks of
the mobility market and even threatened BlackBerry's traditional standing among
enterprise customers. Until those devices reach store shelves, though, RIM is
depending on a refreshed line of BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS
to help it retain market share.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.