With the BlackBerry developer conference RIM held last week in San Francisco they showed that they are really trying to improve their already great platform. First they created a perfect system to push email to mobile devices in an optimized format that allows viewing large attachments without having to download the whole file. Then the transformed their devices from things that looked like calculators to good looking, modern smart phones with rich media features.
There are only two important things in which some competitors are better: the mobile browsing experience and the available third party applications. One of those two things should be solved within the next year when RIM will bring a Webkit based browser to their devices. Unlike other Webkit based browser on other smartphones (like the iPhone for example) the BlackBerry devices will soon be able to play flash application and movies too.
For solving the problem of getting more applications to their customers RIM is doing two things: the first one is to preinstall their App World on all devices running OS 5 – which are all new devices coming within these weeks. The second one is to get more developers to write applications.
To get more developers writing applications the BlackBerry OS 5 will offer some very cool new features that are available via the API and a new set of development tools was created.
As a developer writing BlackBerry applications in Java now for nearly two years I am glad to see the improvements they made. Starting with their JDE was a real pain. Being used to Eclipse it was hard to write code in a thing like that. I was an early adopter of the Eclipse plugin the provided in different versions last year. Although it was nice to write my applications within the Eclipse editor there were some issues with building the application and deploying it to the simulator (especially if the application had alternate entry points).
At the developer conference RIM presented the new version 1.1 of their Eclipse plugin which is available as a Beta version already. They said that they rewrote the whole plugin and my first tests looked very promising. An import operation allows importing legacy projects that are converted to the new layout. It is possible to make code changes without having to restart the simulator. The only drawback at the moment is that there is only an OS 5 component available and it is not possible to create legacy OS versions. I hope they provide the necessary components soon.
It is interesting that after RIM made their Desktop Manager available for Mac OS a few weeks ago they also announced that their development tools will be available for Mac OS too. Currently the compiler and simulator only works under Windows operating systems.
Another great improvement for developing BlackBerry applications will be the cell based location service that RIM will make available through their API. We are using GPS locations services at the moment for our product timr and we will add the cell based location service as soon as possible because it will our users allow to get current position faster and in a less power consuming way.
All in all we at troii are very much looking forward to make use of all these great now things RIM showed at the developer conference and we cannot wait to get next generation of devices for our daily use.