Blackberry World 2012 (Part 2) - BlackBerry 10, Apps and development

7/12/2012 11:28:58 AM

BlackBerry 10

The first thing made clear to us was that the BB10 Dev Alpha device is not the final device: RIM still has secrets and we'll learn of them when the time comes. The second thing is that the device was made available to developers in attendance so that they could begin development of apps and content. When the final hardware and software arrives later this year, RIM intends to have the key components fully available.

Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio of RIM, joined Thorsten to talk about the new BlackBerry 10 features, and he touched on three very interesting features of BB10; the "flow" in usage and navigation, the brand new on-screen keyboard and a new camera feature.

Description: BlackBerry 10

Vivek stated that BB10 is meant to help manage the different information channels that smartphone users receive at one time. "We've created a flow. It's taken to a new level. We look to notifications and recognised that it's not about being notified; it's about being immersed in the right way."

He showed the BB10's new glancing gesture, where dragging the current open screen will reveal notifications, and then other open apps behind that. Using easy sliding gestures, users can switch apps by just moving left and right through the menus. You can flow between apps and activities without stopping, and the apps stay running in the background all the time.

"We're making you agile and nimble with the BB10," said Thorsten, which will be the core focus of BB10. "Your time is even more previous when you're mobile."

For the new on-screen keyboard, RIM understands the iconic significance of their physical QWERTY keypads, and aims to provide something that works as well, if not better. The new typing experience will feature a keyboard with predictive algorithms to continually adapt the phone to the user. The keys are designed to be as wide as possible, and you'll be able to use gestures to swipe down and reveal the numbers and symbol keys. As you type, predictive text will appear at the keys you naturally have to type next - you can swipe up at these works to bring them onto the message. Swiping across the keyboard will delete the words. It looks amazingly fast and intuitive.

And what of the camera? Thorsten noted that most people lament a 'missed moment' in any picture-taking. A new BB10 feature is to allow users to take a picture, and - as Vivek demonstrated - actually go back and forth in time to select the "magic moment" of the picture. That's right: you won't be having those times when you snapped someone with their eyes closed.

Description: A close-up looks at the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. While interesting, this is not the final product
A close-up looks at the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. While interesting, this is not the final product

There is no news of the hardware specs just yet, but we can expect to see more as the BB10 reaches its final release at the end of the year.

"BlackBerry 10 is not just a new mobile OS. It's a revolution that we've built. Imagine where we can take this," said Thorsten, and he showcased a car fitted different BlackBerry devices, all running BB10. These devices can work for gaming or video calls, and with LTE technology arriving, the car can be connected and receive pushed content all the time. The other places and industries they can take this is limitless.

"This is a new era of mobile computing, way beyond smartphones and tablets."

And we can't wait.

Apps and development

With that much excitement over the BlackBerry 10 platform and OS, the next thing that we have to question is content. Namely, applications. Applications and the ecosystem that supports it, aside from the equally pressing matter of getting developers to stay on the bandwagon.

Martyn Mallick, vice president, global alliances and business development for RIM, said: "BlackBerry 10 marks a different way to look at applications. It's been designed with content at the heart of it." What he meant was BBIO's deep integration of flow, and how it extends to the app community.

Description: Martyn Mallick, vice president, global alliances and business development for RIM

Martyn Mallick, vice president, global alliances and business development for RIM

At the keynote, Mallick explains that to have a healthy app ecosystem, three key elements have to be present: a great platform, amazing tools and global distribution.

For Blackberry, the new BB10 platform combines the best of BlackBerry (productivity, communications, security) and the power of QNX. Mallick further noted that BlackBerry's core tools include native development, hardware acceleration, HTML5 support and key communities that are both open source and commercial ones. These tools allow developers to take the skills they already have and then apply it just as easily in building for BB10. And distribution-wise, BlackBerry has the app world, a vast global distribution system (available in 165 regions), and global payment capabilities that extend beyond credit card by allowing PayPal and direct carrier billing.

What RIM has emphasised is how powerful QNX is, and how easy it is for developers to create and port apps both small and powerful to the BB10 platform. Jonas Norberg, CEO of Pacemaker, was present to show the Pacemaker DJ app, a BlackBerry exclusive app that packs a full DJ experience into the PlayBook. "QNX is the only real-time OS we found. Low latency is one of the most important aspects of our development. We get the control we need to achieve that," he said.

Description: What RIM has emphasised is how powerful QNX is, and how easy it is for developers to create and port apps both small and powerful to the BB10 platform

What RIM has emphasised is how powerful QNX is, and how easy it is for developers to create and port apps both small and powerful to the BB10 platform

On building apps on the PlayBook: "We've used Cascades, which supports high modular development. It was easy to develop a new Ul in Cascades and port it to C++." And lo; a exciting, powerful app that actually powered the entire BlackBerry World Party that happened later that night.

And that's not just the only excitable app shown; app developers like Occipital has created a 360-Panorama app that works well with the BB10 platform's hardware and software. In just 7 days, Occipital had put together the app and had gotten it to run.

Gaming was also given a lot of exposure. Gameloft has already confirmed that 11 of their best games are coming to the BB10, which includes Shark Dash, NOVA 3 and what may be an actual sequel to a classic game, The Oregon Trail.

Fishlabs had also confirmed galaxy on fire 2 for the BB10. From what we could see from the demo, these games are looking fantastic.

"Game developers are looking for is the least work as possible, and the best channel to sell the content," said Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs, in a group briefing. He said that, upon receiving a PlayBook, his team had managed to get Galaxy on Fire working in just one day.

Description: Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs (right)

Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs (right)

At the conference, app-creator platform Mippin had introduced the BlackBerry App Generator, which can allow users from large enterprises or personal ventures to create an app in less than 10 minutes. Available for free, the BlackBerry App Generator supports the BlackBerry OS 5, 6, 7, PlayBook and BB10 platform.

The overall BlackBerry app submissions in the last fiscal year had increased by 226%; the apps in the App World received a 69% increase (the fast growing app store in the industry) and the PlayBook app growth went up by 240% in a single year quarter. The current app ecosystem is certainly on the rise, and Martyn Mallick believes that it'll get better.

"What defines success? The approach we're taking resonates with our partners. We really understand the community and make sure we deliver the solutions."

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