updated 07:10 pm EDT, Thu March 24, 2011
BlackBerry PlayBook adds Android app support
RIM along with its latest results confirmed that it would support Android apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook. The seven-inch tablet will have a Java engine that not only supports legacy BlackBerry Java apps but those running Android 2.3. The apps will need "players" to work but just need to be repackaged to be downloadable through BlackBerry App World.
Also coming is an open beta of the native SDK, which allows C or C++ code and theoretically much faster performance than the usual AIR, Flash and Java code for PlayBook apps. It should be accompanied by support from Unity Technologies' self-titled game engine to ease porting apps from other platforms.
Both Android support and the beta native SDK are due in the summer, RIM said. It's not clear what Java engine RIM will use, although it may want to avoid Oracle's lawsuit against Google over allegedly copying Java code in Android's Dalvik engine.
The move is a controversial one as it could give fewer incentives to write PlayBook-specific apps in favor of simply porting over Android versions. However, the company is known to have faced a dearth of app development and has been criticized for an unnecessarily complicated development process that also requires buying VMware just to emulate apps. Android would immediately, if artificially, prop up the usable app count and might lure users who would have otherwise gone for an Android 3.0 tablet.
The relative lack of development tools also stresses the rushed nature of the launch and RIM's determination to have an iPad competitor on the market. Apple has already been making deep incursions into business with the iPad and may leave many of them unwilling to get a PlayBook despite RIM's emphasis on security.