Android on BlackBerry all comes down to execution

The blogosphere is heating up over reports that Research In Motion Inc. will support Android-based apps for its next generation BlackBerry smart phones and the forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

I love this idea, but only if RIM uses the Android catalog as a supplement to its own crop of premium apps.

The best course of action for RIM is to keep pushing its developers to create tightly integrated, premium apps for the BlackBerry OS and use support for Android-based apps to fill out its catalog.

This would provide BlackBerry users with the best of both worlds. The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service is a premium app and among consumers at least, it is the feature that is probably driving the most sales of the handset.

For the enterprise IT department, I don’t think this will present any problems, but the same won’t be true for app developers.

For Android developers, this news would mean that apps would have to be tested against different versions of both the Android OS and BlackBerry OS. While this would broaden the reach of their apps tremendously, I foresee a lot of additional complications.

Jason Perlow, a blogger with ZDNet, expressed it better than I ever could:

“On the x86 platform, developing a Java app on one platform and moving it to another is supposed to be painless, particularly if you are using say, Sun’s J2SE VM on a Windows PC and you want to run it on Solaris, AIX or Linux. In theory, the Java bytecode for that application is supposed to work exactly the same on all platforms if the VM is coming from the same vendor. That’s what the whole beauty of the Java platform was supposed to be about in the first place. The raison de etre, so to speak.

However, the reality of Java is very different. Even between Linux and Solaris on x86, where the platforms have a lot of commonality, Sun’s own JVM behaves differently on the two OSes (and also on both Solaris architectures for x86 and SPARC) even though it passes all the Java certification tests. Behavioral differences also occur between dot releases of Sun’s Java VM on the same platform.

Of course, developing on Android and porting over to the BlackBerry OS on PlayBook might actually be music to the ears of RIM’s developers. Last week, an open letter surfaced from a developer who was fed up with the experience of developing for the PlayBook.

The angry, Waterloo-based developer refers to the PlayBook SDK as “complete crap,” so perhaps he would welcome the opportunity to develop Android apps that also run on future RIM devices.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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