First Look at the BlackBerry PlayBook
by Seni Sangrujee on December 17, 2010I went to the BlackBerry and Adobe "Meet the PlayBook" event in San Francisco yesterday and got a chance to find out more about the device. This is the second BlackBerry event that I've been to recently, it's nice to see them engage the developer community more. We didn't get a very close look at the actual device, it was basically stage on an Elmo projector.
Here are my notes and initial impressions.
Takeaways from the Event* 35 million+ App World users
* 2 million+ apps downloaded a day
* 30 million+ BlackBerry Messenger users
* Development options: Adobe AIR first, next is HTML5 (WebWorks), later Native C/C++ SDK for QNX OS and Java
* Background notifications
* Able to add native C++ extensions to AIR apps
* Currently 3 dev options: AIR Mobile, Flashbuilder Burrito, Flash Professional
* Launch Q1 2011
* App World Publisher registration fee currently waived
* 4 touchpoints detected
* bezel is touch-sensitive
* Basic app approval process not extensive, checking for crashes, branding issues (like BlackBerry in App name, etc.)
BlackBerry PlayBook Concerns1. Many developers I talked to expressed skepticism about the Q1 release based on what's been shown. Normally, I would doubt the Q1 ship date, but it looks like they're trying to beat the rumored April iPad2 release, so assuming a release in March sticks, I'm more worried about a rushed, incomplete product.
2. A lot of developers in the room had trouble getting the dev environment up and running, and these weren't newbies. If I worked for RIM or Adobe, I would ask some random engineers around the company (not on the team) to try following their instructions to get setup and see what troubles they run into. It looks very early, so this is understandable, but this made me be inclined to postpone development and check back later when things have been smoothed out.
3. I think it's great that they're providing so many development options (AIR, HTML5/WebWorks, Native C++, and Java), but this makes things trickier as a developer without a preference.
On other platforms when I've seen a choice like this (ex: Java vs. C++ on Nokia Series 60, or Java vs. Python on Google App Engine), there's a clear optimal programming language option to go with. One language usually is the most up-to-date, most stable, has the most features and support, best sample code, and best community built around it. If you're not developing on the flagship language choice, you'll be banging your head against the wall with a lagging SDK. Companies generally won't say which is the "most favored language", but if you spend some time on each one, it becomes clear. At this point, even though AIR is the first development option for the PlayBook, it's not clear if it will be the optimal development choice in the long run.
4. My biggest concern is broader and is about BlackBerry development in general. We've started development on a BlackBerry version of Field Teams in Java. It's not the greatest development environment and is clearly old tech. I haven't seen any RIM announcements about BlackBerry phones based on QNX, but it appears as if QNX is the OS of the future for both their tablets and phones. So the question for us is how much effort to put into current BlackBerry phone development if the existing phone platform is about to become obsolete. It'll also take some time for the transition to occur, which makes for an uncomfortable waiting period and difficulty defining the product roadmap.