Busy BlackBerry

BlackBerry-maker RIM announced several new initiatives at its DevCon 2010 developer conference in San Francisco yesterday. Here are the highlights…

BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet and BlackBerry Tablet OS
On the device side of things, this was the big news – BlackBerry’s response to the iPad. Less than half an inch thick and weighing less than a pound, the PlayBook has a 7-inch high-resolution and runs off a 1 GHz dual-core processor and the new BlackBerry Tablet OS which supports symmetric multiprocessing, enabling multitasking and what RIM describes as: “a  highly-responsive and fluid touch screen experience for apps and content services”.

The PlayBook offers support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML-5, for an “uncompromised, high-fidelity web experience” offering users “the ability to enjoy all of the sites, games and media on the web”. So long as they are in range of a wi-fi network; there’s no cellular connectivity, though RIM says it has plans for 3G and 4G models down the line.

It includes dual high-definition cameras for video capture and video conferencing that can both record HD video at the same time, and an HDMI-out port for passing video out to an external display.  BlackBerry phone owners can pair their tablet and smartphone using a secure Bluetooth connection. So they can use the larger tablet display to view any of the email, BBM, calendar, tasks, documents and other content that resides on (or is accessible through) their smartphone. They can also use their tablet and smartphone interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data. This secure integration of BlackBerry tablets and smartphones is a particularly useful feature for those business users who want to leave their laptop behind, says RIM.

The PlayBook is enterprise-ready and compatible, out-of-the-box, with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. When connected over Bluetooth, the smartphone content is viewable on the tablet, but the content actually remains stored on the BlackBerry smartphone and is only temporarily cached on the tablet (and subject to IT policy controls). With this approach to information security, says RIM, IT departments can deploy the BlackBerry PlayBook to employees out-of-the-box without worrying about all the security and manageability issues that arise when corporate data is stored on a third party device.

RIM says the PlayBook is launch in the US in early 2011 with rollouts in other international markets beginning in Q2, 2011. The BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK is planned for release in the coming weeks. Developers can register for early access here.

BlackBerry Advertising Service

This gives developers the ability to serve ads from a large number of advertising networks in their applications. With just a few lines of code, developers can include advertising in apps that are relevant to their users, and tie into core BlackBerry smartphone features.

RIM says it is enabling new monetization opportunities for BlackBerry developers by simplifying the integration of advertising both on the development side and on the commercial side. Through a single relationship with RIM, a developer has access to RIM’s many advertising network partners and  can select which networks will get their inventory. Agencies and advertisers will be able to work with the advertising networks they know, leveraging existing relationships, while maintaining control of their creative processes. Under the program, developers will receive an industry standard 60 per cent of the advertising revenue.

The BlackBerry Advertising Service includes three key components: a simple-to-integrate SDK, a mediation platform, and a growing roster of advertising networks.

The SDK allows developers to support both standardized MMA advertisements and HTML-5 Rich Media, as well as ads that have one-click in-application access to core BlackBerry applications, such as Contacts, Calendar, the Media Player and BlackBerry App World.

The mediation platform is a single console for developers to manage their ad allocations and access analytics, tracking and reporting features, which provide immediate feedback on ad metrics including fill rates, ad performance and earnings. The mediation platform and SDK is also open to many of the leading independent measurement and analytics solutions for both developers and advertisers.

BlackBerry Analytics Service
This is a free analytics service that offers developers insight into how customers are using their BlackBerry apps.

The BlackBerry Analytics Service is powered by the Webtrends Mobile Analytics platform. Using the Webtrends SDK, BlackBerry developers can integrate metrics tracking into their applications to capture events deemed relevant. Developers can track application use, frequency of use, loyalty of users, screens accessed and features used. The Mobile Analytics platform provides insight into how their applications are being used, helps developers better understand adoption and allows them to measure success against their usage goals.

BBM Social Platform
The launch of the BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) Social Platform gives developers the tools to build applications that take advantage of the social aspects of the popular BBM service.

Developers will be able to integrate various functions of the BBM service into their applications, including chat capabilities, content sharing, and invitations. For example, users will be able to invite their BBM friends to join them in a game and then chat with one another while the game is being played.

Users will also be able to choose from their BBM contacts from within another application in order to initiate social interactions such as chatting or initiating game play; create BBM friend groups specific to an application; transfer pictures, audio, video and other content directly from an application to their BBM contacts or groups; and invite new friends to BBM, invite their friends to interact within or download an application, and accept invitations, all from within an application

BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware
This is an application development platform that will enable commercial enterprise and corporate developers to more easily build “super app” enterprise applications and services for BlackBerry handsets. IBM Interactive and customer ING DIRECT, Oracle, and SAP joined RIM on-stage at the conference today to present their plans to enable super app development solutions and services using the new platform.

BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware will include a set of application programming interfaces (APIs), libraries and server software that will make it easier for developers to build super apps that can access instant data push and alerts, use efficient file transfers with enterprise applications, and make it easy to query a user’s device for geo-location, presence, current camera image, calendar availability, device type, and much more. It will be possible to use it with popular application development platforms such as IBM WebSphere, Oracle Fusion Middleware and the mobility platform from SAP and Sybase, and can be integrated with these platforms to give access to developers.

BlackBerry WebWorks Web-based Development Platform
This enables web developers to build full-featured applications for BlackBerry phones entirely in HTML-5, CSS and JavaScript. Developers can leverage their HTML skills to create rich, integrated web applications for BlackBerry phones that take advantage of advanced features through APIs and services, as BlackBerry Java applications can do today.

The BlackBerry WebWorks platform brings together existing BlackBerry web development tools, as well as new tools and platform services. It provides developers with a toolset for creating rich applications that offer customers the benefits of deep integration with core BlackBerry features, multi-tasking, Push technology and access to the full range of BlackBerry services, such as the Locate service or the BlackBerry Advertising Service.