BlackBerry enlists HTML5 and open source to jumpstart apps platform

In the face of increasing attacks from the Google Android and Apple iOS platforms, BlackBerry is calling on new weapons to help win the battle for the attention of developers.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief

In the face of increasing attacks from the Google Android and Apple iOS platforms, BlackBerry is calling on new weapons to help win the battle for the attention of developers.

The biggest of those weapons is WebWorks, which allows programmers to build installable, stand-alone apps built entirely with HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. Research in Motion took the wrap off the new WebWorks platform on Monday in San Francisco at DEVCON 2010, its annual developer shindig.

RIM has obviously been working on this for some time and the company made some lofty promises about it. The gist of their value proposition is that developers can build apps with all the same power and deep OS integration as RIM's traditional Java platform but using standard web development tools and applications to build them.

Here are some quotes from BlackBerry on this new development:

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazidis, said, "We're going to make it faster and easier than ever to build apps for BlackBerry."

The official BlackBerry statement:

"The BlackBerry open web application platform initiative allows an application to fully integrate with a BlackBerry smartphone, using the same security, packaging, code signing and distribution infrastructure that BlackBerry Java applications use. Further, developers who utilize the open source initiative are able to create these rich applications using familiar web tools."

David Yach, CTO for Software at Research In Motion, stated:

"BlackBerry developers have discovered the value of building web applications that can leverage the unique characteristics of the BlackBerry Platform, such as running in always-on mode and integrating with native BlackBerry applications. The new BlackBerry WebWorks platform takes the power of existing web tools and enhances and adds to them in order to allow developers to build sophisticated applications using their existing HTML5 skill sets with no compromise in functionality or performance."

The other thing RIM is doing with WebWorks is making the platform itself an open source project (you can find it on GetHub) so that the developer community itself can extend its functionality.

Alan Brenner, Senior Vice President, BlackBerry Platform. "We started supporting open source communities through our work on the BlackBerry 6 WebKit browser and the response from the open source community has already been very positive. We are tremendously excited to see where the developer community will take this initiative and the code that we are presenting."

In addition to WebWorks, RIM also made the following platform announcements:

  • BlackBerry is launching an ad service that requires just three lines of code to leverage RIM's international stable of ad networks. Developers get 60% of ad revenue generated from it.
  • BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is being opened up with an SDK so that app developers can leverage it and integrate with it for instant messaging functionality.
  • The BlackBerry Analytics Service is being launched as a free service to developers to help them measure and improve user interaction with their apps.
  • The BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware is a new platform opportunity for enterprise developers to build apps that integrate with big backend systems and use deeper BlackBerry messaging and alerts functionality.
  • The new BlackBerry Payment Service API introduces carrier billing and in-app payments.
  • For the immediate future ("for a limited time"), BlackBerry is waiving all fees for developers on BlackBerry App World. It's free to register, submit apps, and resubmit apps.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

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