At the BlackBerry DevCon Americas 2011, Research In Motion (RIM) unveiled BlackBerry BBX, a new, unified operating system for BlackBerry smartphones, tablets and other devices.
BlackBerry BBX is a combination of BlackBerry and QNX platform. The BBX platform will include BBX-OS, and will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers. BBX will also support applications developed using any of the tools available today for the BlackBerry PlayBook – including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps – on future BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
BBX will include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework for advanced graphics, and allows deep integration between apps, always-on Push services, the BBM Social Platform, and much more.
BBX will begin powering new BlackBerry smartphones and tablets plus other devices starting by next year.
Comment below by Jan Dawson, Ovum Chief Telecoms Analyst
With BBX, RIM is rebuilding the foundation for all its devices, including the iconic handhelds, and BBX begins to show some real promise in that sphere, with potential for a much more powerful, immersive and media friendly platform. However, the adoption of QNX across the entire line in the coming months and years also means that RIM is leaving its traditional BlackBerry developers high and dry. In fact, it’s arguably providing better support for existing Android developers than it is for existing BlackBerry Java developers, as it seeks to drive up the number of apps on the platform rapidly. There simply is no migration path for existing developers, short of starting from scratch with an entirely new development environment.
The native SDK is a big step forward in allowing developers to create applications which are truly optimized for these devices and which take advantage of all the hardware capabilities. The range of options for development, including those already announced, will be appealing to developers, but they only respond to part of the challenge for developers. The main challenge remains giving developers an audience and a market for their applications, which doesn’t exist today in the case of BBX. As long as it remains a tablet-only operating system, developer appeal will be limited, and with BBX-based handhelds some time off still, many developers won’t feel a pressing need to develop for BBX in the near term.
In the meantime, the platform risks suffering from the same chicken and egg problem as many others – users won’t buy a device without any apps, and developers won’t develop for a platform without any users.