RIM's PlayBook has its coming out party for developers: No functional browser, hardware shines

Summary:Research in Motion is talking about its PlayBook tablet a lot and showing off demos, but the company isn't giving developers much to work with just yet. The biggest deliverable needed: A functional browser.

Updated: Research in Motion is talking about its PlayBook tablet a lot and showing off demos, but the company isn't giving developers much to work with just yet. The biggest deliverable needed: A functional browser.

RIM is holding powwows for enterprise developers and independent software vendors on Wednesday. These events are being held in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. We have a few moles on the ground at the events. Here are some key learnings thus far:

  • First, RIM still doesn't have enough PlayBooks to show off. RIM has about three or four units in New York with about 150 developers on hand. In other words, partners won't be leaving with PlayBooks to try out.
  • A PlayBook emulator with a functional browser won't appear until the end of December or early January. This item is no small issue since there are a lot of HTML5 developers in the house. Simply put, these HTML5 developers won't have any way to simulate a playbook.
  • Once that emulator is launched, RIM is planning a native developer kit for non-Flash apps and Java. Native SDK is C++/C with opengl 2.0, networking, data storage all native. The timeline here is similar to the other ones: January 2011.
  • RIM is planning a Web development platform that will ship next year called WebWorks. The approach is similar to what Palm does with the webOS. The general idea is to produce Web apps that can run locally.
  • Unlike Android and taking a play from Apple's iOS, the PlayBook and the SDK are a black box. Developers cannot debug their apps to the extent they can on Android.
  • All native apps built into the device run on Adobe's AIR out of the box. RIM showed a mobile trading app with real-time data. Graphics were hardware accelerated. In addition, there was a real estate app showing prospective home buyers properties. All of the apps were business focused.
  • If you have a functional AIR app on Android it will just run on the PlayBook by recompiling it in Flash Builder. The rub: AIR apps can be tough to port, says one developer. BlackBerry's biggest developers are unlikely to use AIR. Those BlackBerry developers are likely to wait until January or February when the BlackBerry OS kit is available. In a nutshell, you'll have AIR apps early and Java developers will hold back.
  • The PlayBooks on scene in New York lack a functional browser. Developers can't browse the Web via a PlayBook. The browser is coming in January.
  • RIM is reiterating details that were previously announced for the most part. There will be three PlayBooks, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. There's also a 1Ghz processor and the multitasking looked smooth overall. Tabs are used in the interface instead of folders.
  • The hardware up close looks really good. Any developer submitting a PlayBook app to App World prior to launch gets a free tablet.
  • So far, there are 50 apps in the PlayBook app store. These apps are based on Adobe's AIR.
  • The strength of the PlayBook is hardware. From a developer: The PlayBook has very nice glass similar to the iPad. The build quality is better than current Android tablets on the market.

We'll have more as we get information. In the meantime, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazardis highlighted the PlayBook at the D: Dive into Mobile conference. Here's the video:


RIM's PlayBook: 3.3 million units a smidge more than a year from now?

Topics: Developer, BlackBerry, Mobility, Tablets


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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