BlackBerrys jammed together: RIM debuts single OS for phones and tablets

BlackBerry OS + QNX = BBX...

BlackBerry OS + QNX = BBX...

BlackBerry BBX: RIM unveils its next-gen mobile platform

BBX: RIM has unveiled its next-gen mobile platform for smartphones and tabletsImage: RIM

BlackBerry maker RIM has finally unveiled the next generation of its mobile operating system: BBX.

RIM currently runs two OSes, the BlackBerry OS on its BlackBerry smartphones, and the BlackBerry Tablet OS - based on the operating system it acquired from QNX Systems in 2010 - on its PlayBook tablet. The BBX OS combines elements from these two OSes into a single mobile platform that RIM will be able to use across both smartphone and tablet devices in the future.

The mobile maker will be hoping BBX will boost its ability to compete with rival mobile platforms such as Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS which are used on both smartphone and tablet devices.

RIM said BBX will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers. It will also support applications developed using any of the tools available for the BlackBerry PlayBook - including Native SDK, Adobe Air/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5. BBX will also support the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps.

BBX will include the new BlackBerry Cascades UI Framework for advanced graphics which RIM said will allow developers to create graphically rich interfaces with custom layouts, animations, effects and 3D graphics.

According to Ovum chief analyst Jan Dawson, BBX has the potential to be a "much more powerful, immersive and media-friendly platform" than the current BlackBerry OS.

However, the transition to a new mobile platform has risks attached to it, Dawson believes - not least on the developer front. "RIM is leaving its traditional BlackBerry developers high and dry," he said in a statement. "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."

Playbook gets Native SDK

RIM also announced the launch of a Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook that will allow developers to build native apps for the tablet. Applications developed with the Native SDK will be forwardly compatible on BBX-based tablets and smartphones, according to RIM.

While Ovum's Dawson described the launch of the native SDK as a "big step forward", the analyst said RIM still faces a big challenge on the development front, especially in light of its new platform.

"The main challenge [for RIM] remains giving developers an audience and a market for their applications, which doesn't exist today in the case of BBX," said Dawson. "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."

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