Development for PlayBook with Native SDK

    I wanted to share my personal vision of the development situation for the BlackBerry PlayBook and talk a little about my experience using the Native SDK. It so happened that for several years I have been working with the QNX RTOS, which has become the basis for the PlayBook operating system - BlackBerry Tablet OS. I must say right away that I like the PlayBook platform, like QNX. However, I will not agitate anyone for or against, but simply tell you what and how.

    It’s probably worth starting with the fact that now there are two versions of the BlackBerry Tablet OS: the current 1.0.x and the beta version 2.0.0.x. I managed to work with two versions. The second version is now available for testing and should be released in mid-February next year. It will include many pleasant changes. Among other things, declared support for Android applications. There are, of course, a number of limitations, but authors of most applications can easily repackage their applications to work on the PlayBook. I think this is a rather “tasty" opportunity. Applications developed for the first version (including using the NDK) work wonderfully in the second.

    In addition to the already existing two versions of the operating system for the PlayBook, the BBX platform is expected to be released next year. The BBX platform is also based on QNX and will be used to develop not only tablets, but also all new BlackBerry smartphones. It looks like the PlayBook is a stepping stone from BlackBerry OS to BBX. But it will be next year, but for now we will consider what is already now.

    Various development tools are available for the BlackBerry Tablet OS version 1 and 2. First is WebWorks, which allows you to develop applications using HTML5 technology. Secondly, it is Adobe AIR , which allows you to develop applications on Flash. And, of course, the most interesting and close development tool for me is the Native SDK (NDK) . Why do I like NDK? Most likely because the familiar Momentics (built on Eclipse) is used as the IDE , and even more so because the NDK allows you to "see" QNX in the tablet. Well, and perhaps the most obvious - the greatest flexibility and functionality is present in the NDK. For example, using the Native SDK, you can write extensions for Adobe AIR.

    All development tools for the PlayBook have their own distinctive features and, as I think, have appeared for a reason. In addition to the obvious purpose of each SDK (which I think is attracting developers familiar with a particular technology), they can solve other problems. Perhaps it is worth telling about this in more detail.

    WebWorks is a kind of bridge from BlackBerry OS (this is what works on smartphones now) to BBX, because it allows you to develop both smartphones and tablets. There are Java-based development tools for BlackBerry smartphones, but they aren’t on the PlayBook. So WebWorks is the only common development tool for BlackBerry platforms.

    Transfer tools for Android applications.In my opinion, this is a well-made move. One of the drawbacks of the PlayBook is a small number of applications. This is true, in comparison with the application stores for iOS and Android for the BlackBerry PlayBook applications, there are noticeably fewer. This is understandable, because the PlayBook platform appeared later and is still developing. On the other hand, who needs hundreds of thousands of applications, four fifths of which are blatant nonsense? It seems that not everyone understands this. Maybe not everyone who expresses this argument has a tablet? But not the point. The main thing is that with the transfer tools for Android applications, you can expect the appearance on the PlayBook of a large number of applications from the Android platform.

    Native Development Tools (NDK)will attract developers familiar with various platforms. With the release of NDK, a repository was opened on Github with various projects. Cocos2D and Qt for BlackBerry are very interesting . A number of ported open source projects, such as, for example, Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe, Battle for Wesnoth and DosBox, talk about the capabilities of NDK. It seems that some of the developers for the Nokia platform will switch to BlackBerry, since Nokia itself has taken a benchmark on Windows Mobile. We have successful experience in developing Qt / QML applications for the PlayBook (more on this later). Based on our research, we have prepared a guide for building Qt applications for the PlayBook .

    A study of the capabilities of the PlayBook platform led to the fact that we published several applications on the App World (this is an application store for BlackBerry). I already wrote about the most interesting application on Habré - "Secrets of the ocean" . The most popular game in this series, “Wait a minute!”, Which we are also going to implement on the PlayBook. The Secrets of the Ocean application is developed on AIR and allows us to say with confidence that the PlayBook perfectly supports this technology. Unfortunately, not all tasks can be solved on Adobe AIR, although this is one of the best tools for developing HMI . Therefore, we began to deal with the Native SDK as soon as it became available.

    Secrets of the ocean

    The next step was the development of an application to determine the region by its number on the car sign .

    Identification of a region by its license plate number

    This application is already fully developed on the NDK, and more precisely, on QML . Information and images taken from Wikipedia. The application itself is not something complicated or unique, but it allowed us to make sure that Qt and QML can be successfully used in development for the PlayBook platform. This could not but make us happy, and as a result, we released a second application in QML.

    Tower of Hanoi is a popular puzzle of the 19th century. Surely you are familiar with this game in which you need to shift the rings that make up the pyramid from one rod to another. The game will pass the time or teach children logical thinking.

    Tower of hanoi

    This application used some effects such as scaling and rotation, as well as animation. The PlayBook showed its best side and everything moved no worse than on a laptop with Linux. All listed applications are available for free on App World.

    By the way, it’s worth talking about the development tools that I used for QML applications. It seems to me that this can also be interesting. My work laptop with ArchLinux and KDE4 acted as a tool machine, instead of the IDE, the Kate text editor was chosen , which has quite tolerable QML syntax highlighting and has auto-completion. And, what is most convenient when developing QML applications, you do not need to run it every time on the device, just use qmlviewer under Linux. Very comfortably.

    Perhaps it's time to draw a conclusion. The PlayBook platform is ready to develop applications for it. The Native SDK and the publication of open source projects on Github gave a particularly strong impetus to this . But then the platform will only get better - the official release of Tablet OS 2.0 in February and the release of the BBX platform in spring or summer are expected. RIM takes the tablet market seriously and will expand its presence on it. This is evidenced by the PlayBook 4G expected in the near future , and the expected release of a ten-inch version of the PlayBook with the working name Black Forest next fall .

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