The BlackBerry JamHack 2012 Asia Pacific winner and runner-up share their thoughts about developing for the BlackBerry 10 platform.
RIM's BlackBerry Jam developer conference held in November in Bangkok, Thailand also played host to the BlackBerry JamHack 2012 Asia Pacific finals. The 10 regional winning teams of the hackathon pitched their applications in a bid to clinch the grand prize of $10,000. Soccer Ticker won, and Hive was the runner-up.
- Soccer Ticker is created by Inspira, which is based in Indonesia. The app offers soccer fans real-time push features such as play-by-play commentary, match statistics, and an integrated chat platform.
- Hive is created by a startup of the same name, which is located in Melbourne, Australia. The app is a ride sharing service that helps large companies optimize travel. It is social and sustainable.
To understand what it is like to develop on the BlackBerry 10 platform, I connected with representatives from Inspira and Hive.
Ease of development
A frequently repeated mantra about the BlackBerry 10 platform was its ease of development. I asked Hive and Inspira if that was true.
Hive team member Brendan Graetz (who is a software developer at his day job) summed up the suite of BlackBerry 10 development tools as "impressive." He elaborated in an email message: "From a purely technical standpoint, it is an excellent platform to develop on. There is much less red tape to cut through to get your apps up and running, compared to iOS."
One feature that Graetz brought up was BlackBerry 10's native support for the full suite of tools available in the Chrome Web Inspector. BlackBerry 10 is the first mobile phone OS with this feature that he knows about, says Graetz, who also noted that: "Features like this simply make the development experience a lot more pleasant, and makes me want to develop for BB10 first, and port to Android and iOS later."
"The learning curve for Cascades isn't that steep," says Vincent Putera, the creative director of Inspira. "The library is also quite comprehensive, although it is still a work in progress." He also praised the native Cascades experience for its "very natural" feel.
With multiple approaches for development, the versatile development option for BlackBerry 10 was also highlighted by Graetz.
For all the talk about ease of development, learning an entirely new platform from scratch necessitates a certain amount of work. This includes getting familiarized with the associated development tools and frameworks, as well as the APIs unique to each operating system.
"The greatest challenge would be the fact that there are many third party [frameworks] that aren't compatible with the platform yet," noted Putera, who added that this leaves developers to either roll it themselves, or limit the features.
Moreover, there were murmurs that RIM is effectively underwriting the development of applications with its lavish support of developers. The underlying connotation is that the developer momentum has been artificially generated and is not sustainable in the long run. In a recent CNBC post, Jeff Carney wrote about how he had difficulty finding developers in New York City who are developing for the BlackBerry 10 platform.
At BlackBerry Jam Asia Pacific, I saw a mix of first-time and veteran mobile developers. Hive, for example, is a startup founded by a talented trio who are still at their respective full-time jobs. Others like Inspira are professional mobile developers who have experience with multiple platforms tucked under their belts. "Separately we've developed for Android, iOS, and Windows 8," says Putera when asked about other projects the company has worked on.
RIM's goal of 70,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10 at launch means that it may have a good chance of finding a place behind Android and iOS. And if my informal conversations with current BlackBerry 10 developers in the region are any indication, RIM's strategy of offering multiple comparable development environments is finding enthusiasm among those who are at least willing to give the platform a try.