RIM has been courting developers aggressively when it comes to the PlayBook. If RIM's take on a tablet is to succeed -- especially in the enterprise -- then RIM needs for it to have plenty of applications available at launch.
Today, RIM announced that it opened the BlackBerry App World vendor portal, and is now accepting applications from developers for the PlayBook. In addition to the app store opening, RIM has also updated the BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK for Adobe AIR. RIM says the update supports Flash Builder 4.5 and associated plug-ins and tools. RIM says the new drag-and-drop capabilities of Flash Builder 4.5 will make it easier for developers to build PayBook apps.
"Interest and momentum behind the BlackBerry PlayBook continues to build and we are thrilled with the positive response from both the developer community and our customers. With its groundbreaking performance and robust support for industry standard development tools, the BlackBerry PlayBook provides an exceptional platform that appeals to a wide range of mobile app developers, including Adobe AIR and Flash developers, HTML web developers, corporate developers and application hobbyists,” said Tyler Lessard, VP Global Alliances & Developer Relations at Research In Motion in a prepared statement.
RIM said that it expects to launch the PlayBook at some point during the first half of 2011 with support from wireless network operators. The PlayBook has its work cut out for it. Apple's iPad has already sold more than 7 million units -- and it will probably cross the 10 million mark by the end of the year. Worse, Wall Street firms -- RIM's previous stronghold -- such as JPMorgan Chase are distributing iPads to its global finance workers. RIM is pitching the PlayBook as an enterprise tablet, but already losing out on potential enterprise customers.
RIM, however, says that developers are excited about the PlayBook. It pasted some developer comments into the press release about the app store opening. Here are two:
"The BlackBerry PlayBook has some stellar hardware specs which will support Adobe AIR quite well," said Randy Troppman, Founder, RunningMap. "I recompiled several of my AIR apps with the BlackBerry Tablet OS AIR SDK and they worked the first time. Unmodified. Piece of cake. Now I just need to take advantage of the BlackBerry PlayBook's touch screen to take these apps to the next level."
"Model Metrics is thrilled to be working to deliver scalable enterprise applications on the BlackBerry PlayBook," said John Barnes, CTO, Model Metrics, Inc. "The ease of development and deployment sets a new bar for the tablet market and Model Metrics is looking forward to offering the 2GO platform for the BlackBerry PlayBook."
But that's not what all developers are saying. On Dec. 3, my colleague Fritz Nelson reported, "Many developers argue that when building web-based apps, the performance just isn't there yet, either because mobile networks are congested and slow, or native device functions don't work as well; or that application connectivity needs will jack up end-user data costs."
Apps will help sell the PlayBook story to the enterprise. Will there be enough at launch? Will the quality and performance be good enough? RIM is banking on it.