Research In Motion March 24 said its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer will support applications based on Google’s Android operating system as well as BlackBerry Java apps.
RIM earlier this week pledged to sell the 7-inch PlayBook April 19 in Best Buy, Office Depot, RadioShack, Staples and carriers in the United States and Canada. Like Apple’s iPad, PlayBook pricing is $499 for a 16GB version, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB.
Since news of the PlayBook began evolving several months ago, analysts expressed concern that RIM wouldn’t be able to cultivate enough application content to tempt users.
This issue became especially salient as Apple’s iTunes application store swelled to host 350,000 applications. News trickled out in February that RIM was testing how to run Android apps in the PlayBook, rumors that proved true ahead of the tablet’s launch.
To address the apparent dearth of apps for users, RIM this summer will release two “app players” that PlayBook users may download to install any of 25,000 BlackBerry Java apps and some 200,000 Android apps from BlackBerry App World.
The app players will be placed in a secure “sandbox” on the PlayBook where the BlackBerry Java or Android apps can be run. This should appease the enterprise-minded users with IT security concerns.
This will effectively give PlayBook users access to 225,000-plus apps. This is still less than those available for the iPad, but far more than those available for current Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” tablets such as the Motorola Xoom. The Xoom launched last month with only 100 Honeycomb apps.
It should be highlighted here that the Android apps RIM is making available are based on the Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” OS intended for Android smartphones, not the Honeycomb build Google has optimized for the running on the larger screen size tablets feature.
With a 7-inch screen, the PlayBook fits that bill so it might give some developers and tech-savvy consumers pause before purchasing a PlayBook for the Android apps.
Interestingly, Google told eWEEK it has delayed releasing the source code for Honeycomb to open source, claiming it has more refining of the OS to do before it can deliver the code for use in phones and gadgets.
RIM’s new app players won’t be available for download from Blackberry App World until this summer. However, RIM promised to preview the BlackBerry Java and Android apps’ players at BlackBerry World in Orlando, Fla., May 3 to 5.
Meanwhile, RIM said its earnings would slip to between $1.47 and $1.55 a share.