RIM shows off Web-based BlackBerry development platform

At DevCon 2010, the company also rolls out middleware and social networking capabilities for developers

While declining to discuss rumors of a planned pad computer, Research In Motion (RIM)  did roll out on Monday a Web-based application development platform for its BlackBerry smartphone, complementing the existing native development paradigm.

The introduction of the BlackBerry WebWorks Application Platform is among several announcements being made by the company, with others covering development on Apple MacOS and initiatives in social networking , advertising services and application middleware. RIM is making the announcements at its BlackBerry Developer Conference (DevCon 2010) in San Francisco.

[ Rumors circulated last week of a BlackBerry tablet, or pad, device. | Keep up with app dev issues and trends with InfoWorld's Fatal Exception blog and Developer World newsletter. ]

With WebWorks, developers can build Web applications for BlackBerry leveraging HTML5, CSS, and JavaScipt. "It's a full-blown application in the same sense [as RIM's native application platform]," said Alan Brenner, RIM senior vice president of the BlackBerry platform. "The platform enables you to build apps quickly using [quicker] Web cycle times vs. Java development cycle times."

"This opens up a whole new world developers," said RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. "Anyone who knows HTML can now build apps for BlackBerry."

RIM will open-source its Web application framework used to integrate the WebWorks platform into BlackBerry. The platform will be available today on github.

While the Web-based development platform enables faster development, native BlackBerry application development still offers fine-grained control over such  capabilities as placement of pixels, Brenner said when interviewed after his presentation. While third-party tools vendor Appcelerator  plans to enable development of BlackBerry applications using Web techniques, Brenner pledged the integration offered by WebWorks far exceeds anything on the market.

Also unveiled by RIM was an Eclipse Plugin for MacOS X, enabling Java development for BlackBerry. "It removes the barriers to [developing] BlackBerry applications for MacOS developers," Brenner said.

RIM also is introducing this week its BlackBerry Analytics SDK, providing developers with reporting and analytics on how applications are being used. The technology was developed in partnership with Webtrends.

Commenting on how RIM's application development story stacks up against Apple iPhone, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows Phone 7, Tyler Lessard, vice president of global alliances and developer relations at RIM, stressed RIM's enablement of integrated, "compelling" experiences for developers to build applications that "really matter" to users.  Lessard cited RIM "super apps" concept. "The idea of super apps is we provide such a rich platform," enabling such capabilities as inbox integration and multitasking, he said.

Company representatives, however, declined to discuss a rumored introduction of a RIM pad device, citing the reports as just rumors.

Also unveiled Monday was BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware, for easier development of "super app" enterprise applications and services for the BlackBerry. The middleware platform features APIs, libraries, and server software for easier building of super apps that access instant data push and alerts, use file transfer with enterprise applications, and make it easy to query a user's device for geo-location, RIM said.

Developers can use the middleware technology with application development platforms such as IBM WebSphere and Oracle Fusion Middleware.

RIM also announced  BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) Social Platform, providing developers with tools to build applications that leverage social aspects of the BBM service. "We now have 28 million active BlackBerry users using BBM," Lessard said.

"What we recognize is [there is] a huge opportunity for third-party developers to plug into BBM," with their applications, Lessard said. Functions of the BBM service such as contact lists and user profiles can be integrated into applications.

Other introductions Monday include:

  •  BlackBerry Advertising Service, for developers to integrate advertising into applications while leveraging ad networks affiliated with RIM.

  • BlackBerry Payment Service SDK Beta, for developers to build in-app payments into applications via a single set of APIs. This boosts monetization opportunities for developers, RIM said. Users, meanwhile, ca n conduct secure transactions for digital goods and services using a range of payment types within applications.
  • Waiving of vendor fees for BlackBerry App World, making it easier to bring applications into the App World online application store. For a limited time, developers can submit applications for free.

This article, "RIM shows off Web-based BlackBerry development platform," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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Paul Krill

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