RIM Reaches Out to Java Jocks

We're about to be soaked in promotions for the new BlackBerry Storm device, but buried in the hype is something interesting for Java developers: a new set of dev tools for creating and testing mobile-savvy applications for Research In Motion's (RIM's) newest handhelds, including the Storm, Bold and Pearl Flip smart phones.

The tools package includes new versions of the BlackBerry Java Development Environment (BlackBerry JDE) that's designed to enable "the streamlined development of mobile applications," the company said, including the ability to develop an application that works seamlessly on both touch-screen and keyboard-based BlackBerry smart phones.

The complete developer tool update includes a new public beta of the BlackBerry JDE plug-in for Eclipse, new releases of the BlackBerry plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio, the BlackBerry MDS Studio and Plazmic Content Developer's Kit for the BlackBerry platform.

The JDE plug-in for Eclipse is designed for coders who want to build and test wireless applications for the BlackBerry platform from within their Eclipse integrated development environments (IDEs). Now in public beta, the plug-in provides deeper integration with Eclipse and standard Java projects, said Alan Brenner, SVP of BlackBerry Platforms at RIM. It also comes with pre-processing capabilities that support a multi-build environment, support for the BlackBerry JDE component pack version 4.3.0 to version 4.7.0, and the ability to install updates of the BlackBerry JDE plug-in for Eclipse through the standard Eclipse software update mechanism, he said.

Brenner was among the keynote speakers scheduled to appear at the Waterloo, Ontario-based company's first ever BlackBerry Developer Conference last week in Santa Clara, CA. RIM showcased its new developer tools at the show, which drew an estimated 700 attendees.

Last Tuesday, RIM Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis gave the keynote opener, telling attendees that the BlackBerry is "one box it's wise not to think outside of."

Lazaridis was referring to the delicate balance among bandwidth, capacity, performance and battery life that constitute the "physics" of the BlackBerry platform: Mess with one, and you affect the others.

"BlackBerry is more than just the device," he said later. "In some respects, that's just the tip of the iceberg. What's made BlackBerry special is the fact that it's an end-to-end solution. You've got the device and what it can do, but you also have the server side, in the enterprise environment we have the BlackBerry server...But also, on the consumer side, you have IM and Facebook and mapping and local search and all sorts of applications that allow you to leverage the power of the server to do the heavy lifting and then manage the constraints of the device by only sending down to device what's important to the device."

Lazaridis was clearly there to woo the developer attendees, most of whom (according to a quick poll of the audience) were Java developers. "Frankly, I'd be surprised if you weren't," Lazaridis joked.

"What you need as developers is the right tooling, the right capabilities," he added. "You need APIs that allow you to do what you need to do -- and I'll be the first to admit that we've rolled out ours slower than I would have liked because of security constraints. But we are stepping up our efforts to get over those hurdles and make more and more APIs available to you."

RIM also unveiled the new BlackBerry Application Storefront at the show. The online store for BlackBerry users shopping for apps would allow participating developers to set their own prices and retain 80 percent of the revenue generated by sales of their software, the company said. RIM plans to open the store in March 2009. BlackBerry application developers can begin submitting their applications and content to the storefront in December of this year.

During his conference keynote, Lazaridis told attendees that the Internet is destined to become the primary vehicle for application delivery -- and Web-enabled applications are the key to the future success of the BlackBerry platform.

"We see [the Internet] as the entrance to an easy path to getting applications to market," he said. In a published statement, he said that the BlackBerry application storefront will "further support the growing BlackBerry ecosystem" and help "bridge consumers with developers and carriers as more and more innovative and interesting applications arrive."

RIM is late to this realization; Apple Computer, through its App Store, and Google, which supports its Android platform with its own online app market, are already there. But the conference attendees cheered the announcement of a BlackBerry app store.

The beta of the new JDE plug-in for Eclipse is available for download here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, CA.

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