Event Coverage

7-inch Tablet and New Platforms Announced at BlackBerry Dev Con 2010 - Now with Video!

By Terence Ang - 28 Sep 2010

BlackBerry Developers Conference 2010

RIM wants BlackBerry Developers to Create SuperApps, Go Integrated & Think Social

At this year's 3rd annual BlackBerry Developers Conference, held from 27-30 September in San Francisco, Research in Motion (RIM) has expanded on some of the key announcements made in last year's conference. If you recall, last year, RIM announced its location-aware API, advertising service, in-app carrier-billing payment services, integration with Adobe, OpenGL ES for games, Theme Builder and Push integration into BB functions after launching BlackBerry App World on 1 April 2009 and the Bold 9700.

As promised, here's a video summary of the General Keynote Session at the BlackBerry Developers Conference:

Long queues and tight security amidst the 3rd annual BlackBerry Developers Conference at the Moscone West Convention Centre, San Francisco. But wait, this queue wasn't for the keynote. It's to preview something that's 7-inch...

Tyler Lessard, VP for Global Alliances and Developer Relations, sets the stage for App World initiatives by reiterating how much the BlackBerry App World has accomplished since it went live on 1 April 2009.

This year, shortly after announcing new smartphones like the Curve 3G and touch-screen keyboard slider Torch 9800, and a touchscreen-friendlier BlackBerry OS 6, RIM is now going back to what they are primarily known for -- their BB Messenger and enterprise level integration (analytics and location-aware functionality). Besides that, they're expanding on their commercialization services and taking their Widgets & Services platform announced from last year into a fully expanded HTML5, CSS and JavaScript-friendly WebWorks developers platform.

Oh did we also mention that there's a tablet called the BlackBerry PlayBook?

A 7-inch PlayBook that Works with Your BlackBerry Smartphone

The PlayBook is a 7-inch 1024 x 600 WSVGA touch-screen tablet with a BlackBerry Tablet OS. It has a 1GHz dual-core processor and dual HD cameras (3-Megapixel in front, and 5-Megapixel in the rear), supporting1080p HD video recording.

Co-CEO of RIM, Mike Lazaridis, opened the keynote at the BlackBerry Developers Conference with the biggest buzz to date...a 7-inch tablet called the PlayBook (yes, he's holding one in his hand).

The physical preview of the PlayBook after the keynote had three models shown encased in double-layered reflective glass. However, it was clearly an interesting looking device with a handy size that would work well with existing BlackBerry smartphones.

Besides black with a 16GB and 32GB indicated at the backs of two running units, one of the three units on display had a blue case. Oh and that's the 5-Megapixel camera at the top.

How thin is the PlayBook? Well we tried to take this shot to show it. Technically, it's 9.7mm.

Based on what we've seen in press photos and this shot we managed to take, the top portion of the PlayBook has four buttons. Three left, right and play/pause buttons, and one Power button.

At the bottom of the unit, you'll see the microHDMI, microUSB port and the charging contacts.

In summary, the PlayBook's specs are:

  • 7" LCD, 1024 x 600 WSVGA capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Dual HD cameras (3-Megapixel front facing, 5-Megapixel rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video Playback: 1080p HD video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio Playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Measures 5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4" (130 x 193 x 10mm)
  • Weighs less than a pound (about 0.9 lb or 400g)



The BlackBerry PlayBook utilizes the BlackBerry Tablet OS, based on the QNX Neutrino architecture.

Delving deeper into the application world and how that integrates with the QNX microarchitecture on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The PlayBook BlackBerry Tablet OS is based on the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture, used to support many mission-critical apps in enterprise level fields like planes, automobiles, medical equipment and largest core routers. Also, from the specs, it's mighty clear that the PlayBook doesn't support 3G (RIM says that's being planned though). To enjoy BlackBerry services like Push services, calendar and BBM, the PlayBook can be paired with a BlackBerry device via Bluetooth. So the PlayBook actually caches information from the smartphone and lets you view and interact with your services via a larger screen. This is part of a security initiative to ensure no data is duplicated on multiple devices, a major concern among enterprises.

While there is no pricing information at the moment, expect the PlayBook in North America by early 2011 via retail and other channels, and internationally by Q2 of next year.

BB Messenger Goes Social

RIM also announced the availability of the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform, which gives developers the opportunity to build applications that tap on the popular BlackBerry Messenger platform. This means that developers can create social games and communication apps that tap on BBM features BBM like chat, invitations and content sharing.

For example, a poker card game developer can allow a BB user to invite other BB users on his BBM to play the game and chat with them through the BBM platform in-game.

David Yach, Chief Technology Officer of Research in Motion, explains how developers can leverage on the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform to introduce BBM elements into their applications.

Besides that, developers can also create apps that allow functions normally native to just the BBM app itself, such as updating the BBM status profile, friend grouping, invitations to BBM and data transfer among BBM users within the app itself.

At the keynote, features like embed chat appears on an app like Telmap and ScoreMobile, while apps like Kik Music and Magmic THK let users share content and real-time data, as well as create communities using their BBM channels. Other apps like Word Mole, Magmic THK and ScoreMobile allow users to customize their user profiles.

Several developers have produced apps that leverage on the BlackBerry Social Apps Platform such as Telmap and ScoreMobile. Basically, within the apps, users can invite other BBM users to join in, do data transfers and chat within their own BBM private circle of friends.

The platform is expected to be available in the Spring of 2011.

BlackBerry Commercialization Services Get Rolling: Advertising, Carrier Billing and Analytics

Besides BBM Social Platform, RIM has also expanded on the various commercialization services it unveiled at last year's Developers Conference. These include the In-App Advertising Service, carrier billing payment service and analytics.

The Advertising Service has made it easier for developers to embed advertising into their apps with just three lines of code. Besides the SDK, there's a mediation platform and the support of several ad networks, ranging from Amobee, Jumptap, Lat49, MillenialMedia and Mojiva. It is expected that other ad channel networks like Medialets, Buzzcity, Navteq, Placecast, Sympathico and others will likely join the service as well.

The BlackBerry Advertising Service now has the support of five ad channel networks and will see many more rich, media ones joining in. The service platform allows developers to embed ads into their apps with just three lines of code, and they earn 60 percent of the revenue for every app downloaded by users.

RIM has made a commitment to encourage more developers to come on-board by granting 60% of revenue earned from every downloaded app to developers. In fact, for a limited time, RIM is making registration and app upload to the BlackBerry App World free-of-charge for developers.

While last year, RIM allowed payment of BlackBerry App World apps via PayPal, this time, things are now looking a-changing on the app payment front. Just last month, RIM announced AT&T supporting carrier billing with the new BlackBerry Torch smartphone. Other carriers are expected to follow suit. The BlackBerry Payment Service SDK would now allow developers to integrate in-app payment options like PayPal, carrier billing and credit card billing.

The upcoming analytics tool for BlackBerry developers will work on both the desktop and BlackBerry smartphone platform. Developers and app vendors can now track the frequency, screens accessed and so on of their apps, for free.

Developers can soon integrate analytics into their apps. The Analytics Service is a collaboration between RIM and WebTrends, and will allow developers the opportunity to track frequency, loyalty, the screens being accessed, features used and so on, with just a few lines of code in the app.

The good part is that the service will be freely available to developers by early 2011.

BlackBerry WebWorks Application Platform Evolves from Widget & Services

Finally, RIM has also unveiled WebWorks, an app development platform that simplifies the use of HTML5 with BlackBerry Push services, multi-tasking and so on. Basically, developers can now create full-featured apps on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript and leverage on all of BlackBerry's integrated feature-sets and push-related, or location-aware functionality.

The new BlackBerry WebWorks platform tries to address the developer conundrum of whether to develop for a pure Web browser experience or Java and finds a comfortable ground that addresses the two.

Here's an architecture overview of the WebWorks platform.

WebWorks then lets developers distribute their apps via App World, Desktop Manager, OTA (over-the-air) and Enterprise Server. 

What's even better is that RIM is going open source and giving developers access and contribute to the BlackBerry open web application platform. RIM will be working with open source JavaScript framework companies like Sencha, GitHub, DoJo, JQuery and Nitobi. 

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