Update: Sorry for the confusion. You can find the updated final copy of Chris’s article that is now correctly updated.
I accidentally posted an older draft which you see below. -RH
You wouldn’t know it from reading the mainstream media but the BlackBerry platform has a number of competitive advantages that remain unmatched by the competition. One of them is the Super Apps API through which BlackBerry apps can integrate richly with the user’s data and native applications on the device – anything from memos, messages, calendar and tasks to call logs, notifications and LED controls and even things like Facebook and Twitter messages getting embedded in the Messages app. Good luck doing that with Android or iOS (like, have you tried writing code to access something as simple as the Calendar on Android??! Anyways, I digress…).
Lots of apps like my high-end productivity apps Viira and the Viira Outlook Suite leverage the Super Apps API to create a rich experience that cannot be created outside the BlackBerry platform. By integrating with the user’s phone’s data and native applications in a secure, trusted way an app is no longer just an app but an integral and engaging part of the user’s day-to-day experience. And that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for both developers who can make lots of new product ideas possible and for users who enjoy new capabilities on their devices.
RIM Marketing calls this “BlackBerry Flow” and the idea is that the user effortlessly “flows” from one part of the device in a smooth, value-adding and effortless way. You will even see “big time” apps like foursquare, drivesafe.ly, wikitude and of course the likes of BlackBerry Travel integrate very richly with the Super Apps and BBM SDK. As recently as two years ago RIM held “Super Apps” challenges – with big prizes.
Actually, come to think of it every single consulting project I have done has used the Super Apps API in one way or another.
The problem is, as it stands right now the Super Apps API and the BBM SDK will be dead when BB10 arrives, and with it a critical competitive advantage of the BlackBerry platform will be needlessly gone.
RIM hasn’t made a formal announcement to that effect, but the “bye-bye Super Apps, BBM SDK” conclusion can be easily inferred by all developers when they connect the dots. The official way forward for apps on BB10 is Android (unless of course you are doing a game or have a web app in your hands, in which case native and WebWorks are the way to go) . However Android’s does not have a Super Apps API and what it offers is a puny little subset compared to what something as ancient as BlackBerry OS 4.6 can do.
So if you have a good thing going for you, why kill it?
There are a number of ways that RIM can easily address the problem and provide the kind of experience BlackBerry users are used to as they transition to BlackBerry 10. The easiest way would be of course to add a last-minute java player in BB10 to buy time and simply avoid the drama come launch time. Or they could hack the Android runtime somehow.
Whatever it is RIM does need to step in and provide guidance to developers here. Otherwise there will be a lot of disgruntled users come BB10, especially on the enterprise side (hey, why upgrade when my NEW phone can’t do what the OLD one did so easily?) Abandoned, moth-balled apps and developers jumping ship will be next. And you betcha the negative publicity will be quick to follow and spread like wild fire after that.