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Interview With RIM’s Mike Kirkup: A Must Read for BlackBerry Developers

Mikekirkup who what where when why

While at the NYC BBM Hackathon I had a chance to sit down and talk with Mike Kirkup, RIM’s Senior Director of Global Developer Relations, to discuss many topics of interest to both new and long time BlackBerry developers. We have interviewed Mike many times in the past and it is always interesting especially with all that has been going on in 2011. The Hackathon was an awesome event and it was great to see developers collaborating with RIM and each other to create new BlackBerry apps that push the platform forward.

The topics Mike and I discussed are ones that developers have been asking me recently especially considering the strong push RIM has been making to encourage BlackBerry app development both on smartphones and the PlayBook. Let me know if I missed any question you wanted answered and I will follow up with Mike.

How would you describe the BBM Hackathon in one word?


How does RIM and your department, Developer Relations, measure their success in encouraging BlackBerry development?

Mike shared quite a few metrics that his team uses to measure how successful they are in their stated mission of “Increasing Developer Satisfaction.” Here are some of them:

  • Increase the number of BlackBerry developers
  • Increase the number of apps available in App World
  • Increase developer productivity (which is defined as the number of apps per developer)
  • Decrease developer velocity (Time from downloading tools to having an app in App World)
  • Many more… but all of them focus on improving the developer experience

What are some of the key pain points that RIM is focusing on improving for developers:

One of the main focus points for RIM is simplifying the code signing process from the registration process all the way to actually signing applications. RIM has some big plans on how to simplify this while maintaining the same level of security. It started with making code signing keys free and then shortening the turn around time to less than a day for new keys. This will be further improved with options for devs like graphical tools that help simplify the install process. RIM also has a key focus on improving the development tools themselves with a strong push in favor of Eclipse. When RIM first introduced the Eclipse development plugin it was built to have compatibility with the BlackBerry JDE but developers rejected it though internally RIM used it as a way to migrate their own development to Eclipse. The refreshed Eclipse plugin no longer maintains that backwards compatibility with the JDE and has been received much better by developers. On the other hand many long time developers do not even realize the benefits of using the Eclipse plugin and should definitely try it out.

If a developer shows interest in developing for BlackBerry where is the first place you would send him to learn more and download the tools?

Definitely the BlackBerry DevZone. While this is not as integrated as RIM would like right now they have big plans for improving it and integrating all of the dev sites together.

If a developer is running into a bug or issue where should he go to ask questions and report bugs?

While RIM first tried to use the developer issue tracker for bugs they found that most devs don’t get to that point. For now Mike HIGHLY recommends using the official BlackBerry developer forums. Many of these threads end up on Mike’s desk or in his inbox. They have completed a reorg in his team that has allowed for more dedicated team members who are on the forums all day answering questions and assisting developers and manning the @BlackBerryDev Twitter account.  They are also creating dedicated forum threads to help devs through common issues or coding complexities. In short RIM is trying to make their development tools and solutions more cohesive.

If a developer needs to escalate beyond the forums or needs to contact somebody at RIM where should they turn?

I am trying to work out with Mike to see if we can make some sort of email available for developers to communicate with RIM. Until then Mike told us that developers should definitely reach out to him on Twitter @mikekirkup and he will do his best to respond and possibly take it offline from there. You can also feel free to send tips and suggestions to him or contact us and we will try to help make the connection.

What is RIM planning for DevCon? I noticed that there are quite a few sessions about the PlayBook Native SDK and a focus on WebWorks. Will RIM be launching new developer services/features/tools or simply announcing them?

Mike confirmed that the Native SDK along with the Android Player and new Adobe SDK to accompany them will be available to developers before DevCon. He also got really giddy when I asked if RIM will be actually launching new services/features/tools at DevCon or simply announcing them like they usually do. He said this year they are coming prepared with actual deliverables.

We know that the Native SDK in its first incarnation will be focused on games. What else is RIM doing to promote game development on the PlayBook?

As RIM mentioned at BlackBerry World they are working with Unity and Marmalade (formerly known as Airplay) to bring their gaming engines to the PlayBook. There are many games that are currently being ported using these engines that will be available for the PlayBook. For example, Marmalade is the platform for Cut the Rope (popular game) and Titanium which enables cross platform apps and games

Our time was up and we had to run to see the demos from the Hackathon but I think we covered some great topics with Mike. If your are a developer or a potential developer let us know if there was something we missed that you wanted us to ask!

6 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. This is why BR is the best BB site, it focuses on real stories and news and not idiotic fluff pieces like celebrities seen with a BB.

  2. Lots of “big plans”… Let’s hope they all come together quickly.

    Although I rarely had issues with the process (apart from missing doc), RIM should have provided compiling/signing tools from the start in order to avoid devs wasting time building their own or typing the same things over and over.
    A java written, cross-platform graphical tool would be nice.

    The escalation process seems totally broken if we refer to the issues Shape is having with IM+. I think it’s totally unacceptable to treat developers that way and it won’t encourage them to release quality apps for the PlayBook. Would you invest a minimum of $25k in a project with so many unknowns?

    Webworks on the PlayBook needs a big push:
    – Ripple is still not a usable simulator (events missing),
    – Some APIs are broken and fixes are only released with major updates instead of as quickly as possible.
    – AIR has more APIs than Webworks
    – Devs don’t have access to the same SDKs as on smartphones (No ads, no BBM, etc.)
    – RIM needs to work with major API providers to make sure they run well on the PlayBook. Google won’t fix Google Maps, but maybe RIM can make changes on the PlayBook to make it work better, etc.

    Appworld… It needs a complete overhaul. We need better stats, a better reviewing system, a licensing engine (providing shorter TTM and better reliability for small devs), etc.

  3. Sounds like good stuff going on hear! Keep it up rim

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