RIM Unveils BlackBerry BBX Mobile Platform

Wide-ranging new developer tool updates accompany new platform release

Embattled smartphone company Research In Motion (RIM) has been hard at work trying to restore its slightly tarnished reputation of late by unveiling the BlackBerry BBX next generation mobile platform. The new release is accompanied by a series of developer tool updates, including WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook, and a developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 with support for Android applications.

BBX combines both BlackBerry and the QNX Real-Time Operating System (RTOS). The BBX platform will include BBX-OS and will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers. BBX will also support applications developed using any of the tools for the BlackBerry PlayBook – including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash, and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps on future BBX-based tablets and smartphones.

“With nearly 5 million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers,” said Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO at RIM. “We’re giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications 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.”

BBX will also include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework for advanced graphics and bring what the company has called “Super App” capabilities to enable advanced capabilities including deep integration between apps, always-on Push services, and the BBM Social Platform.

Developers who want to support both existing smartphones (running BlackBerry 6 and BlackBerry 7 OS) and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets can monetize apps on both platforms today with BlackBerry WebWorks, which supports apps built on HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. The latest release, BlackBerry WebWorks SDK 2.2 (supporting both smartphones and tablets), includes updates for the new PlayBook OS SDK and PlayBook Simulator. The BlackBerry WebWorks APIs are supported by the Ripple Emulator, a standalone, high-fidelity browser-like emulation tool that allows developers to test and debug their applications on multiple platforms and devices without having to compile or launch simulators.

RIM has also announced the availability of the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook (1.0 gold release). The Native SDK is said to allow developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native C/C++ applications and enables programmers to create advanced 2D and 3D games and other apps with access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open AL, as well as device-specific APIs. Applications developed with the Native SDK will run today on the BlackBerry PlayBook and will be forwardly compatible on BBX-based tablets and smartphones.

The Native SDK includes support for C/C++ POSIX library and compliance, device events like gesture swipes and touch screen inputs, access to code-management systems using industry standard Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tools), and advanced debug and analysis tools. QNX Momentics Tool Suite, an Eclipse-based integrated development environment, is also included. It provides memory profiling, application debugging, and memory usage statistics to help developers debug sophisticated programs, including hardware accelerated OpenGL applications.