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BlackBerry WebWorks Platform Gaining Serious Traction


The BlackBerry WebWorks platform that RIM rebranded and announced a bit back is really starting to coming into its own. Even before BlackBerry World I have see the platform grow and the BlackBerry PlayBook only helped it along. I have even been dabbling myself with a few apps that I created in the WebWorks SDK. The PlayBook browser really lets these apps shine with its faster processing speed but BlackBerry 7 should offer a similar experience. For BlackBerry 7 RIM has rewritten the browser using the new hardware enhanced graphics to run the HTML, image, and JavaScript processing in separate threads along with JIT (Just in Time) JavaScript processing.

If you really want to be impressed with a “WebWorks” style app look no further than the BlackBerry Bridge. Chris Smith from RIM confirmed for me that the BlackBerry Bridge on the BlackBerry PlayBook is rendered with the WebKit browser though obviously with access to more API’s. Other apps like Slacker for BlackBerry and the very popular Rogers Hockeycentral app are also both written using WebWorks on the PlayBook. Chris also confirmed that the BBM Social Platform API’s for WebWorks are coming in the next few weeks.

What really blew my mind is when I asked Mike Kirkup to give me an idea of the share of WebWorks apps in App World. He gave a rough estimate of almost a third of App World apps are built on the WebWorks platform. Even the traditionally Java based shop at Polar Mobile (the team that runs the BerryReview Mobile app) confirmed that they are using WebWorks for their PlayBook apps. The picture you see above is actually a running copy of their WebWorks framework for upcoming applications. It has all the animations and page flipping you would expect in a native app though it is all rendering in the WebKit engine.

I was curious what the adoption of WebWorks looked like in the enterprise market now that MDS is long gone. Chris and Mike noted that companies are using WebWorks to easily leverage existing assets into BlackBerry applications and the use case for enterprises is growing as they move past the legacy device barrier since WebWorks requires OS 5.0+. RIM had Andrew Terry from TouMetis who confirmed that they make all of their enterprise healthcare and finance apps in WebWorks and are very happy with the platform along with the direction RIM is taking it.

I also asked Chris and Mike if API’s will be coming to WebWorks at the same time as other platforms which is not currently the case. Right now the WebWorks API’s for BlackBerry Smartphones is built in Java and then they built the WebWorks API’s on top of them. For the PlayBook they are working on keeping the API’s and services separate in the native environment so that all of the platforms can access them without layering them one on top of the other.

Its exciting to see what WebWorks has in store for us in the future. I am actually almost done with a WebWorks app for BerryReview but I am trying to style it with the design guidelines RIM proposes which has proven a bit tricky. RIM is slowly embracing the different pockets of web developers out there from jQuery to Sencha to Dojo and I think we will see alot of movement here in the next few months leading up to DevCon!

8 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Yes that’s true. WebWorks is quite simple for developer to develop applications since HTML is so popular and most of us know it. HTML5 is coming pretty powerful too.

    All I need now for my PlayBook apps are GPS and Accelerometer. Hope it’s coming soon.

    Thanks Ronen

  2. Saw your (good) review of the Playbook web browser. Just got a playbook myself.
    Question: There doesn’t seem to be any equivalent of a “home” button (to immediately go to your home page). Is there any way to do this?

  3. It’s a shame that some many APIs are missing on the Playbook version of Webworks.
    Someone needs to compare the execution speed of native vs Javascript versions of some libs.

    • Yeah RIM is still working on exposing them to developers but they are coming soon.
      Is the execution speed of APIs different? I know the WebWorks smartphone ones are built upon the Java APIs so I could imagine they would be a bit slower.

      • What I meant is that, per example, crypto APIs are not coming any time soon (they’re not on this year’s roadmap), meaning that doing everything in JS or AS3 may be considerably slower than wrapping native APIs.
        Granted, if you just encrypt a couple of strings, the impact should be negligible, but if you encrypt all your transactions before storing them, this could have a significant impact.
        Apparently, HTML5 localstorage and sqlite are encrypted on a BB, but they’re not on a Playbook. I don’t understand this difference in approach, especially for a “professional grade” tablet.

      • Having said all that, I think it’s great that all the major mobile frameworks do almost work on the Playbook (still quite buggy). It makes developing apps much faster for seasoned developers even if for now the framework can’t really be used for anything serious (source code leak).

  4. I still think the playbook needs the following: Ability to see your Media/files stored in your phone’s MicroSD card and be able to view/copy/move to the Playbook. It still needs a lot of Codec’s like flv, Option or an App to remember and store passwords, sms/MMS via bridge, The Dot in Android that lets you mark where you want to delete or alter a word/sentence(it’s so annoying tapping over and over again to try to get to where you want to delete in a word), The ability to use the MicroUSB to connect printers, Digital cameras to transfer/copy/move pics to the PB and external hard drives. wifi connect to printers or a dock that lets you connect multiple devices to the PB via wifi/bluetooth such as a printer, camera, or hard drive. Bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo, car dock for GPS, voice guided turn-by-turn Nav that also doesn’t need to be connected to the net in order to get you to your destination. Lastly, a dock that rapid charging dock, not that gay one that’s overly priced and ONLY charges your PB. I’m talking about one that has function to it, which has full size USB/HDMI out and possibly even a full size SDHC card slot along with the whole syncing to your computer thing.

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