RIM Touts Developer Tools, App Store

New support for RIM's growing inventory of BlackBerry smart phones includes a new plug-in for Eclipse developers and new features for Microsoft's Visual Studio. Developers will be able to build applications using HTML, JavaScript and XML that get packaged and executed as native Java applications on BlackBerry devices. Developers will also enjoy support from a new RIM apps store.

Perhaps not so coincidentally on the eve of T-Mobile's G1 Android phone debut, Research In Motion announced Oct. 21 new tools for developers building applications for BlackBerry smart phones. RIM also announced plans to launch a new online application storefront and on-device application center.

The tools will include a plug-in for Eclipse developers and new features for the BlackBerry plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio, as well as support for Gears, allowing Web applications to run stand-alone applications on BlackBerry smart phones. According to RIM, developers will be able to build applications using HTML, JavaScript and XML that get packaged and executed as native Java applications on BlackBerry devices.

See 10 cool Android apps here.

RIM said support for Gears will include local cache, database and multithreaded JavaScript execution, which allows Web application functions to run in the background.

In addition, RIM announced the availability of BlackBerry Web Signals, which allow content providers to push alerts to smart phone users based on a customer's opt-in preferences.

RIM said the tools will be available in 2009.

"As the BlackBerry browser evolves to provide customers with a richer, more desktoplike experience, we are introducing powerful new Web development tools and technologies to help developers create a more robust and optimal Web experience for BlackBerry smart phone users," Alan Brenner, senior vice president for the BlackBerry platform, said in a statement. "Supporting Web technologies and services is part of our ongoing commitment to providing best-in-class tools and services for mobile application development on the BlackBerry platform."

RIM's application storefront is set for launch in March 2009, and application developers can begin submitting applications and content for inclusion in the storefront in December. RIM said the storefront will allow developers to set their own prices for applications, with developers retaining 80 percent of the revenue generated from their applications.

RIM is also working with its carrier partners to provide carrier-customized, on-device application centers to help promote aftermarket application downloads. The center will allow each carrier to offer a catalog on the device, where a customer can discover and download applications.

The rash of RIM announcements comes just two weeks after the company announced its BlackBerry Storm-with its new tactile touch-screen-that will be exclusively available on Verizon Wireless in the United States in a matter of weeks. Both RIM and Verizon Wireless are expecting the Storm to seriously challenge Apple's 3G iPhone as the hottest electronic device under this year's Christmas tree.

eWEEK Labs' Jason Brooks blogs about the good and bad of the BlackBerry Storm. Read his thoughts here.

With a look similar to Apple's iPhone, the Storm comes with a 3.2-inch screen, preloaded with Facebook, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. The device features built-in GPS , a 3.2-megapixel camera, video recording capability, a media player and a removable battery.