RIM PlayBook tablet gets Android and BlackBerry app players

BlackBerry maker is encouraging Android developers to port their apps to PlayBook...

BlackBerry maker is encouraging Android developers to port their apps to PlayBook...

BlackBerry PlayBook to run Android apps

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is to get the ability to run ported Android appsPhoto: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

By the summer, Android and BlackBerry smartphone apps could be running on RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet after the company announced a system to enable developers to port their software to the PlayBook.

RIM's PlayBook tablet runs a proprietary operating system called the BlackBerry Tablet OS, created by the Canadian company after its acquisition of OS maker QNX last year. The BlackBerry Tablet OS is distinct from the operating system RIM uses on its BlackBerry smartphones - the latest iteration of which is BlackBerry OS 6 - hence the need to port BlackBerry apps across to the PlayBook slate.

BlackBerry App World has more than 25,000 BlackBerry Java apps on it, according to RIM, while Google's Android Market hosts more than 200,000 Android apps. By encouraging developers to make their Java and Android apps PlayBook-friendly, RIM is seeking to give the tablet a base of apps to compete with the likes of the iPad - which can now tap into around 65,000 tablet-optimised iOS apps, according to Apple.

Analyst house Ovum predicts Android's share of the smartphone market will swell in the coming years, outstripping Apple's iOS platform by a considerable margin. By 2016, the analyst believes Google's Android will have 38 per cent share of the smartphone market, Apple's iOS will have 17.5 per cent and RIM's BlackBerry OS will be fourth with 16.5 per cent, behind Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 on 17.2 per cent.

Reports that the BlackBerry maker was toying with enabling Android apps to run on its tablet have been circulating in recent weeks but the company declined to be drawn on the speculation. However, RIM has now confirmed Android 2.3 Gingerbread apps will be accessible to PlayBook users, provided developers port them across to BlackBerry App World, RIM's app store. BlackBerry Java apps will also be able to run on PlayBook.

"RIM will launch two optional app players that provide an application run-time environment for BlackBerry Java apps and Android v2.3 apps," the company said in a statement. "These new app players will allow users to download BlackBerry Java apps and Android apps from BlackBerry App World and run them on their BlackBerry PlayBook."

RIM says "a high degree of API compatibility" will make it relatively easy for developers to port BlackBerry and Android apps across to the PlayBook. Developers will have to...

...repackage, code-sign and submit their Java and Android apps to BlackBerry App World for approval.

PlayBook users seeking to get ported BlackBerry and Android apps to run on the tablet will have to download two app players from BlackBerry App World. These app players will then sit in a secure sandbox on the PlayBook - and the Java and Android apps will be run from inside that sandbox, according to RIM.

Any apps made by Android or BlackBerry developers who decide not to port their apps to the tablet won't be accessible to PlayBook users.

RIM said the two are expected to be available from BlackBerry App World this summer, and will also support native C/C++, HTML5, Flash and Air development, and game engines AirPlay from Ideaworks Labs and Unity 3 from Unity Technologies.

The BlackBerry maker will also be hoping developers step in to make dedicated PlayBook apps. One such app was announced yesterday by RBS Global Banking and Markets. The investment bank said it will be developing a PlayBook app to offer clients access to fixed-income, commodity and currency research. The company already offers a similar service via the iPad.

In related news, Google has announced that in-app billing will be coming to Android apps next week. In a post on the official Android developers' blog, the company said developers can now upload apps that use in-app billing for testing - before next week's launch.