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Alec Saunders Explains Why RIM Won’t be “Another Undifferentiated Android Handset”

PlayBook OS 2.0 HTML5

Robert Scoble is a well known Silicon Valley personality (Tech Blogger) who has been having a bit of back and forth with RIM’s developer relations team. He recently wrote up a post on Google+ detailed why he thinks RIM doesn’t stand a chance with no developer interest in Silicon Valley and proposed that RIM simply run Android on their devices. (I am simplifying here) Alec Saunders, RIM’s head of developer relations, stepped in and spoke to Robert Scoble and explained why RIM sees no value in that path in a simple:

“Yes, I saw what you wrote.  And I disagree.  There’s no money, Robert, in being just another undifferentiated Android handset.”

Saunders then goes on to explain the two “weapons in that fight for retaining existing developers and growing RIM’s ecosystem.” Namely open standards and open communities. Check out how Alec describes those weapons below:

Open Standards.  After iOS and Android, the next thing developers are focused on is HTML5, because they’re looking for a solution that will let them target multiple handset vendors, not just one.  RIM has, hands-down, the best implementation of HTML5 in mobile today.  PlayBook OS 2.0 benchmarks better than any other mobile implementation (just point your PlayBook, and better than every desktop browser, except Chrome 16. It also includes WebGL for accelerated 3D graphics, and with WebWorks, we can free HTML5 code from the browser, let you upload it to AppWorld, and turn that HTML5 website into a revenue generating HTML5 application.  How ‘bout them apples?

For those that really want performance, PlayBook OS and our upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS are POSIX operating systems that you program with C and C++. Another open standard, with over 30 years of code written that’s compliant.   As one blogger recently wrote, Cross Platform Begins With C.

Soon we’ll add our secret sauce – a graphical UX framework called Cascades.  Stay tuned for that!

Open Communities.  One of the things that we’ve worked hard at is to embrace communities of developers.  So, you can build applications on our platforms using Flash, Android, gaming frameworks like Marmalade, Unity, and Shiva3d, open source like Qt, Boost, Cocos2dx, scripting languages like Lua, and so on.  If you’ve got a code base that you’d like to bring to BlackBerry, we want to help.

Open Source, Open Communities, and Open Standards like HTML5, C and C++ running on a POSIX framework.  What’s more mom and apple pie than that?

We finished up by agreeing to chat again at South by Southwest.

It wasn’t my intent to change Scoble’s mind today, but rather to engage in a conversation.  It’s time for us to start a dialog with the Valley, and what better way than by starting with one of the Valley’s most prominent voices?

33 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. But we can’t ignore the fact developers are not interested to build apps for Blackberry. I don’t know their reasons but this is true.

    • “BlackBerry” stands for two different worlds today.

      One is a old, aged and dated java-based platform that can do wonders but still not enough to break the downhill tracktion and get the dev’s attention.

      The other is a brand new OS that is getting more and more attention from devs (even without the incentive of free PlayBooks, though that helps).

      It makes sense for some devs to drop the old platform for two reasons: 1- iOS and Android are way larger in marketshare right now; 2 – The new BlackBerry is actually ONE device only and not even a phone.

      Just watch as it all changes with the launch of BB10. They will have no choise but code for it.

  2. If people would stop being iSheep they might start to see beyond IOS and Android..You do actually need some intelligence to operate a BB, go figure!

  3. In Reply to Sachin:

    How many BlackBerry Developers are making 100K + a year? Now how many are doing that with IOS/Android?

    What this Cherade is all about is People don’t want a Canadian Company to win… That would force Google/Apple to loose Job’s in AMERICA! OMG, They both Suck so why not take them down BlackBerry! Kill THEM and Destroy THEM!

  4. I really, really like where RIM is going with its new OS if it’s more than just marketing talk. It’s one thing to have an Open Source project logo on a slide, it’s another to actually deliver something that the community wants.

    Having said that, there are quite a few problems with what we have now:
    – Their implementation of HTML5 might be solid, but it’s useless without APIs that let developers build superapps
    – If RIM really cared about developers, they would have plugged the source code leak hole a long time ago. I’ll keep mentioning this until it’s fixed.
    – It’s great to have all this desktop browsing power, but it’s a shame it’s slowed down by Flash, ads, useless scripts, etc. We need Chrome on PlayBook for pure browsing pleasure. RIM can keep the other engine for apps.

    • I agree about the flash and scripts but why bother going with Chrome, how hard is it to write code that’ll strip that stuff out?

      • Chrome is the best browser you can get today because of its performance and secure architecture, and it supports loads of extensions.

        RIM is having a hard time bringing in developers, so it would be even more difficult to try and get people to write extensions specifically for their system. On Android, Dolphin HD supports extensions and you get the most popular ones, but there aren’t that many besides that.

        • I don’t know mush about this stuff but if the number in the caption is real the 344 puts RIM ahead of anything on a tablet including Chrome Beta listed at 343 according to HTML5 website.

          • RIMS’s 2.0 browser is 1 point ahead of a beta browser… That tells me that they have everything to gain by going with something like Chromium + secret sauce.

            • Don’t forget the continuous update possibility of 2.0 and beyond. Supposedly while the OS is running! I like RIM’s chances of staying at or near the top.

              OS2.0 is beta to me, I don’t have it yet….

  5. Have you ever heard the term Inside the Beltway? Well Mr. Scoble might be a SV celeb, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about here.

    I’m not talking about RIM, I’m talking about RIM and Microsoft.

    What people inside SV don’t understand is that there is a whole world beyond their valley, and guess what else: more programmers outside the valley than in it.

    It’s fine to RIM to cultivate programmers in SV but they should also look to Waterloo, Toronto, London UK the rest of Europe and the grand daddy of them all: India. There is likely more programming talent in India than in SV. [I didn't say business talent and infrastructure, I said programming talent]

    My. Scoble is inside the beltway.. inside the beltway.

    • I bet he made the same kind of comment to Apple when they released the iPhone.

      “Steve, you should have gone with Symbian!”


    • Funny, even the cool developers in India are going iOS:

      • Funny, the cool Card Manufacturer’s like Porsche are going with BlackBerry:

      • Meant Car.

      • Hey Robert,
        Nice of you to stop by. What exactly do you see as the benefit to RIM if they adopt Android? That would relegate them to a “me too” player like many of the current Android manufacturers instead of being able to innovate. It would also abandon much of their current base.
        The same argument you are making about lack of developer support leading to a “death spiral” could also be made for Android just 2 years ago and similarly for Windows Phone now. Are you saying it simply is not worth trying to compete?

        • I think I can answer for him… He simply has no argument, and pretty much is a biased arrogant “blog writer” like boygenius. He is trying to find a way to keep the “Distorted Reality” going that Steve Jobs created. See Jobs FBI on Google if you would like… Scoble, this isn’t a war that you can win as far as I’m concerned. Pick your battles that you know you can win…

      • God I thought you might be someone with a little knowledge and then you come on a put a video like that up.

        Sorry Apple fan boy spotted! Your credibility can now RIP

      • Canadian Developer here, not from SV, not from India, Robert is right, I am not touching BB with a 20 foot pole.
        RIM lost developers long time ago, with crappy OSes one after the other and rejecting to communicate with developers.

        And no, RIM does not have the best implementation of HTML5, have you actually tried to build web apps? You will soon realize that RIM’s browser is quite buggy.

        The fact that they are touting HTML5 here means they still don’t get it. You cannot build apps that integrate well with a device just with HTML5. Yeah yeah I have seen their WebWorks, it still doesn’t integrate well, you have to use proprietary API to do more than display a web page, and just that makes your app no longer universal, forgetting that it is slow and will never be as good. Think notifications, GPS and hardware sensor integration, let alone performance and how about look and feel? The app will look totally out of place within the OS.

        Oh btw, your BB SDK still needs Eclipse 32 bit. Hello! its 2012 already.

        • Baaaahahahahaha!

          I guess my India comment really hurt the SV bays because they know it’s true.

          Why are you reading this if you wouldn’t touch BB with a 20 foot pole??????

          Please tell us the Apps you’ve created (for the iPad I’m sure). Thanks for your support of slave labor!

          Really it’s totally silly for people to come to Berry Review and say they’ve left Blackberry long ago.

          I dumped all my Apple crap more than year ago and you know how often I I visit Apple sites? NEVER. The total disgust I feel from touching anything Apple is strong enough to repel me

          • It’s easy to find my apps online, not sure if you can find them with your BlackBerry.

            Why am I here? The discussion here started to be actually technical. The comments however seem to have descended into fanboy wars so I might have just wasted my time here.

        • By your comment, I can guess that you’re developing for iOS since building WebApps for Android is a nightmare. So congrats on making it easy for yourself by developing for the best mobile HTML5 implementation out there. Hopefully you’re not like the hundred of thousands of iOS devs out there that are releasing apps that last a few weeks so that they can quickly cash in a few bucks.

          Regarding what you can do with Webworks and the PlayBook APIs, you have no idea what you’re talking about (even if I agree that some key superapps APIs are missing). And it’s not that hard to build cross-plaform apps if you are willing to build an abstraction layer into your app. There are even tools like Phonegap that you may have heard about, that can help devs release their apps on multiple platforms when they need to build these oh so complex apps you’re talking about.

          Oh, and apps can look native if the dev wants it to.

          Why don’t you try to port one of your apps to the PlayBook then. Dumb it down a little for V1 to see how it goes. The iPad is only a little taller, so I’m sure a UI expert like you will be able to adjust the layout while keeping a perfect UX.

          • @ofutur I did one.
            I have a web app that worked perfectly on iOS and Android but gave us a lot of headaches on BB and PB, lots of formatting errors, and we had to put a lot of “if BB, if PB” code all over the place.

            As for porting native apps, I don’t think I will do that, most of our apps require tight device integration and heavy multi-threading, you can’t easily do that with WebWorks. Yes, I know all about Webworks API and HTML5’s web worker but the effort to get the same thing to work in HTML5 is enormous.

            The problem here is that RIM is forcing developers to use a difficult platform, making many compromises. This is not how you attract developers. I am one of them. It ain’t gonna happen.

            • Before last Summer, the PB had quite a few formatting issues, but if you look at the Sencha kitchen sync demo, things look normal and that’s without hacking the JS to death. Android’s HTML5 implementation is pretty broken. Performance is poor and it won’t be fixed before 2013.

              And if you need tight device integration and you’re using HTML5, then you inevitably will need to use the vendor’s API, but it’s the same on every platform. You only need to write a layer for each platform. I don’t think it’s too much work. The problem with the PlayBook is more that WebWorks is missing some key APIs, but so does iOS.

              If you go native, then the PB is brilliant and there is not need to ever use the archaic Objective-C that no one wants to touch with a 20 foot pole, but had too in order to make some quick cash ;). I haven’t looked at the C++ SDK but I would be very surprised if it doesn’t let you manage threads or offer to manage them for you.

              I think there will be a lot of people who will be attracted to this platform once it’s good enough in terms of API:
              – People who use Flash to write cross-platform apps
              – People who know HTML5 inside-out
              – People who know how to write C++ apps and who will enjoy working with a POSIX env.
              – People who write QT apps
              It’s not going to be difficult for them, but it can only work if RIM provides devs with all the APIs they need and we’re still far from it as far as the PlayBook is concerned.

              • @ofutur Actually our web app runs the fastest on Android and slowest on BB.

                I don’t care about how well they can make a demo work, I am talking about a real world app here. PB and BB just plain suck at rendering our app. Funny thing I was just talking to one of our developers today who was telling me that you cannot use onload event in Html because it is not reliable on BB lol

                As for native apps, thanks… but no thanks.
                I am sticking with with Android’s superior SDK and iPhones Cocoa. Just getting the BB eclipse plugin to work takes days on end, and it is not even 64 bit compatible… I am not going through that again.

                • Don’t forget that we’re talking about the PB which is a totally different animal from BB OS 7, with a different SDK which doesn’t require Eclipse, etc.

                  Android’s list scrolling is awfully slow and buggy, so I guess you’re not using any lists in your HTML5 apps… I’m wondering what makes your app perform so badly on the PlayBook though. The demo I was referring to wasn’t made by RIM, but by Sencha and their primary target is iOS.

    • This is the real problem here. Not so much with Robert Scoble in particular, but with Silicon Valley in general. I plan on writing a more detailed post on this later tonight, but the short version is that the world looks very different to companies that are backed by VC money, then those that are funded by revenue…

      • That’s part of it. The other part is that Steve Jobs Manipulated all these iSheep to think that it’s products are cool. To be honest, I think there is more to this distorted reality business with Investors and Analysts. Apple could easily put figures up that’s outselling this and that, and because of the weak-minded; it took off…

        • Three points.

          First, Jobs did not “manipulate” anyone to do anything.

          Second, the iPhone is “cool”.

          Third, for many people (myself included) “cool” is irrelevant.

          • I’m not sure how old you are, but seriously I don’t think there are many people under 25 that think the iPhone is cool anymore.

            If you think about it, it’s basically been the same phone from day one and how long ago was that thing out?? Second when EVERYONE has something it by definition ceases to be cool.

            iPhone = yawn, iPad = yawn

            How will next gen change, um let me guess thinner!

            • The iPhone is like the girl next door… She has been around with everyone including Jonathan Geller and she is Used and Abused! There is a new girl coming to town and her name is London, and she has a sexy Body and UI! Sleek and Slender she will win me over!

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