Blackberry Playbook

Went to a big discussion around the Playbook today. It was put on by the Blackberry and Adobe groups and gave a feeling of a strong entrance into the field by this device. It has some good features and with the Adobe Air runtime almost built in to the operating system, it should provide Flex and Flash developers the tools to produce some applications quite quickly. There are also advantages in doing this as, if you can get an app approved in their app store before mid March, the developer will get a free device. All the big guns were there, MDs from both companies and they had the stats to show that Blackberry had the top market share in smart phone and imply that they would carry this on into tablet devices.

Alan Banks the Adobe MD for Europe introduced the event and pushed the quality of manufacture from both the hardware and software standard. He seemed to be pushing the Air platform, rather than the Flash platform, but that the future is a combination of Adobe and Blackberry.

Stephen Bates, the RIM UK MD then gave a whole set of slides to show how much the Blackberry was ahead of its competitors (without mentioning the iPhone at all!) The numbers are obviously there and if they can take their corporate share across, it will become a very successful tablet. He also brought in the idea of moving from board room to sitting room so the consumer push is just as important. They kept stressing the quality – full web experience with 1080p video, true multi tasking and with a bridge to your Blackberry. They bought the QNX company a year ago which has software in nuclear installations, high speed trains and in most top end cars, Jag, Audi, Bentley etc. This gives them a reliable, secure and tested, multi tasking operating system to sit underneath Air. Air will give the front end GUI and games.

They have the concept of Super Apps to go with their platform and this implies a quality level in their App store. They will be testing the apps in the same way as Apple and also offer the promise of being able to bring the better ones into more prominence both within the store and within their ad campaigns. This will be done on a local level as well. Theirs is the biggest platform for Facebook and Twitter and these applications will be running all the time. Super Apps may also be able to communicate between one another. The Air platform will bring the html and flash to the front end. Blackberry bought a company that implements the Webkit browser so it should fulfill all the normal standards. They have the SDK out now and a simulator but real devices are in short supply. Any apps produced will only be tested by them on real hardware, so I hope they have enough time and people for this. Launch in the US will be end of March; not sure about UK although we are the second most important market.

Jeremy Copp of Comscore came out with a whole set of figures for mobile usage. SMS is rapidly falling away and media viewing is growing. Only 4% use their smartphone to watch video. There are 15m instant messaging users in the UK, (Nov 2010) and this is growing.

On the technical side: Torch (?) webkit browser, 5Mp camera on back, 2Mp on front. HDMI out, 1024×600 resolution, 5.1″ x 7.6″. There is a porting solution for current Flash apps. The current SDK allows for custom splash screens, custom metal, orientation events and there is an in app payment API coming soon. The user will be able to click a URL to take them to the app intall location. Blackberry WebWorks within QNX will translate from the HTML/CSS page to the application, which will be Java on the mobile or Air on Playbook. WebWorks is now being made open source and has full access to Blackberry facilities. There will be a native SDK post launch, which will include the QNX C++ compiler, so only Flash games for launch. The bezel is also sensitive, so it can have events from on/off screen swipes, although most will be used by the system. Bottom left will be keyboard, bottom up will minimise an app, the swipe down from the top is for the application to use for context menus etc. There is a unique PIN per Playbook. The camera can grab a frame of a video, which sounds useful. Multi tasking should give some processor power to background apps and they may be viewable in part of the screen. The SDK has swf files to interface to the OS and to attach to services such as payments. There are example apps using LiveCycle data services and streaming video, with components to allow this to be done with only a few lines of code. The services are free for development use.Mike (?) and Mark Doherty showed some examples that they are putting out there ; one was using LCCS collaboration and taking pictures to be able to draw over. (IIS also has a plugin for the BlazeDS service) There may also be a Tour de Flex version to suit this device (using RTMP, RTFP?). Mike also showed an app playing video, with one line of code, and a LinkedIn app using OAuth. Flashgen (Mike Jones) will also be looking at the SDK and showing examples as well.

Tools available from the developer site, http://us.blackberry.com/developers/ Watch the marketing videos at http://us.blackberry.com/playbook-tablet/ SDK from here, http://us.blackberry.com/developers/tablet/ Also keep an eye on the blogs, such as http://www.flashmobileblog.com/

There is the usual 70/30 split on application revenue, free vendor registration and there should be free security code-signing certificates for installed apps. There are video tutorials and blogs on how to get up and running. There will be an ad platform similar to the current Balckberry platform, but not at launch. THis is a localized solution. THey are looking at solutions that allow televisions to reach out to the Playbook to give the device some options on what is available or how to control it; some sort of super remote control.

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