RIM announced BBX at Blackberry DevCon today, a future operating system that will power its handsets and tablets, which is a merging of its Blackberry OS and QNX.
Developers will be able to target BBX using applications developed in HTML5 with BlackBerry WebWorks, in C++ with the Native SDK for BlackBerry Playbook, with Adobe AIR or via the Blackberry’s Android runtime.
The Native SDK utilises POSIX threads, OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenAL, and allows access to open-source libraries such as Lua, Qt, Bullet Physics and Box2DX physics engines, SDL and Cocos2DX gaming framework.
HTML5 will be the bridge allowing applications to work on BlackBerry OS 6 and 7, as well as BBX. Among the demos shown was an HTML5 app using WebGL inside BlackBerry’s WebKit-based browser --- in fact, many of the demos showed games working on a PlayBook with HDMI output, something that one does not expect from a traditionally enterprise-focused company.
The enterprise was not forgotten with an impressive demonstration of the beta Citrix receiver showing a virtual Windows desktop on a PlayBook, and BlackBerry Balance being further integrated to provide enterprise application deployment on a separate partition without data leakage into consumer class applications.
Before the excitement becomes overwhelming, the announcement stated that “Specific details regarding BBX products and availability will be provided at a later date”.
This is quite the problem. While the company has guaranteed future proofing of applications developed for the Native SDK to run on BBX, why BlackBerry expects developers to aim up at an environment that currently powers zero handsets, is a little puzzling.
A prime example of this is the Cascades UI framework that showed a nice multi-touch photo-viewing application that was built using C++, but the Cascades framework is coming in a future release of the Native SDK with only a beta available soon. Building enthusiasm with developers is easily dissipated by not being able to get one's hands on the technology. Without a specific release date, there’s always the chance that something could become vapourware.
Attendees at the conference were given PlayBooks with version 2 of the tablet’s operating system, but no sign of any BBX devices was made other than to note that they are coming in the future.
Disclosure: Chris Duckett attended BlackBerry DevCon as a guest of RIM