Interview: BlackBerry PlayBook

Interview: BlackBerry PlayBook
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

May 23rd 2011 at 10:00AM

RIM describe why the PlayBook should be the choice for mobile game developers

BlackBerry is one of the most recognised names in the communications business.

But while Canadian manufacturer RIM may gloat about turning ‘BBM’ into a verb, BlackBerry hasn’t fared as well as its competitors when it comes to games.

The lack of a standardised touchscreen and motion sensitivity until recently has meant BlackBerry users have missed out on the multitude of games available on iPhone and Android.

RIM are looking to change the stakes with their new tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, which is available now in North America and launches in the UK on June 16, and across the rest of Europe this summer.

The Playbook has a slimmer form factor than Apple’s iPad and a 1024x600 screen. It’s also running their specially made BlackBerry Tablet OS, which supports a broad selection of platforms and technologies. So will all this help make BlackBerry more developer friendly?

Develop spoke to Sanyu Kiruluta, team lead, developer relations at RIM Europe, Middle East and Africa to find out what developers can expect from the PlayBook and ask just how important games are for the tablet.

How important are games to your overall business plan for the PlayBook?
The BlackBerry Playbook tablet is an ideal tablet for gaming with a 7-inch screen, 1 GHz dual-core processor, incredibly intuitive touch interface, high-end multimedia features and groundbreaking performance that allows apps to run smoothly and quickly.

Games are very important to us, which is why we are working with gaming development technology providers like Ideaworks Labs and Unity Technologies to implement their native engines and application development platforms. Electronic Arts have already launched Need for Speed Undercover and Tetris on the device to allow for out-of-the-box gaming.

Why is the PlayBook the best choice for casual and mobile game developers?
The BlackBerry PlayBook is a great device for games and applications. With a sharp focus on the multimedia experience, high definition ED capabilities and very powerful hardware, the BlackBerry PlayBook has all the right ingredients to be a mainstream hit. Combining this with content distribution via BlackBerry App World brings an exciting new ecosystem for developers which give them the opportunity to reach a new audience and grow with another great platform.

RIM offers one of the broadest and deepest platforms to develop on. ‘App players’ provide an application run-time environment for BlackBerry Java apps and Android v2.3 apps. Our commitment to supporting HTML5 and Adobe AIR development has resonated and spurred developers to create fun and innovative applications. The QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS is built from the ground up to run WebKit and Adobe Flash as well, giving developers a fast and true web experience to leverage.

In addition, the BlackBerry Tablet OS Native Development Kit will go into open beta by this summer, allowing developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native/C++ applications with industry standard GNU toolchains. Developers can create advanced 2D and 3D applications and special effects by leveraging programmable shaders available in hardware-accelerated OpenGL ES 2.0.

Going forward, we will continue to evolve our various development technologies to deliver the most powerful, flexible and open experiences for developers, whether they choose to build with HTML5, Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe AIR, or native C/C++. And for those developers using our BlackBerry platform tools, we will continue to offer access to a growing set of on-device API’s to enable best-in-class integration with core BlackBerry applications and features (which we call ‘Super App’ experiences).

We are also planning to provide a range of advanced cloud-based services including the BlackBerry Payment and Advertising Services, advanced location-based services, application analytics, and powerful Push services.

For developers who’ve produced games for other platforms, what will the process of bringing their games to the PlayBook be like?
Developers currently building for the BlackBerry or Android platforms will be able to quickly and easily port their apps to run on the BlackBerry Tablet OS thanks to a high degree of API compatibility. They will simply repackage, code sign and submit their BlackBerry Java and Android apps to BlackBerry App World. Once approved, the apps will be distributed through BlackBerry App World.

The PlayBook runs Flash software, so have you been actively been reaching out to Flash game developers to take advantage of this?
Definitely. We have been working very closely with Adobe since the early phases of PlayBook development, and the BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK for Adobe AIR enables developers to quickly and easily build or port existing AIR applications for the PlayBook tablet using Adobe’s industry-leading tools. With [this development resource] developers can deliver rich, compelling performance-optimised AIR/Flash applications for the new tablet.

When can we expect to see the BlackBerry Playbook arrive outside North America?
Our UK launch partners announced [last Tuesday] that BlackBerry PlayBook will be available in the UK from June 16, 2011. Other announcements will follow in Europe and globally.