BlackBerry gears up for new wave of apps

Developer tools promise richer multimedia applications, social networking and the novel idea of gaming on a BlackBerry

The range of applications available for BlackBerry devices looks set to expand, after RIM announced new application programming interfaces for developers on Wednesday.

The developer tools are for the BlackBerry Java Development Environment (JDE) and should enable or enhance applications such as instant messaging, social networking, web browsing and multimedia.

"Push email paved the way for the early success of this market, but mobile applications will drive the next phase," said Mike Lazaridis, RIM's co-chief executive, on Wednesday.

The latest iterations of RIM's smartphone platform, in particular the BlackBerry Pearl, have been more geared than their predecessors towards non-corporate applications. The Pearl even had a camera, and the introduction of an application programming interface (API), to notify applications when a picture is taken, would suggest that this will be a continuing trend.

New applications will also be able to access BlackBerry Maps and make more use of built-in GPS (a feature on the recent 8800 model), which could open the handsets up to a variety of location-based services. A BlackBerry Messenger API will enable presence — the ability to know whether someone else is online — and peer-to-peer messaging.

What may still surprise seasoned RIM-watchers, however, is the planned support for a 3D graphics API, to "enable more powerful gaming and rich-media content" — a fresh sign, if one were needed, of RIM's shift into the "prosumer", or professional consumer, market.

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