updated 11:10 pm EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
Public release of emulator unlikely
Videos surfaced last week of a BlackBerry PlayBook running iOS applications inside a emulator. The first, heavily edited, video (seen below) showed the user playing a handful of iOS specific game titles, such as Tiny Tower, Super Monkey Ball, and GalCon inside of the player. After a few days of public skepticism, the developer responded to requests and showed a few more applications running, with app interactions specified by critics. The developer has stated that he is unsure if he could ever release the player application, but does not specify why.
Video uploader and developer "Bubble Wrap," also known as "businesscat2000" first posted the video in the Crackberry Forums. The developer explained that his approach took a similar approach to how WINE works to run Windows applications on OS X and Linux. The PlayBook supports several of the iOS APIs, such as GLES and OpenAL. The majority of the coding for the emulator was in engineering other Objective C libraries needed for iOS apps to function properly in the player.
The ARM environment on the iPhone and PlayBook are similar, so application code doesn't need to be pre-processed or recompiled to use the emulator. Not all libraries have been successfully ported, including an important one for web access and rendering.
The developer is willing to test other coders' iOS applications for both proof and refinement of the player, with several major caveats. App restrictions include no DRM, specific compilation for armv6 or universal binary, 480x320 resolution, no network access required, and graceful error trapping within the application. Specific APIs listed as functioning are Foundation, GLES, OpenAL, AudioQueue, CG, CALayer, UIView, and UITableView. Any App Store items sent will not be tested.
The developer specifically not accepting App Store applications leads to the most critical issue with the emulator -- sourcing software. All emulators exist in somewhat of a grey area, legally. Creating and using emulators is legal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but often, obtaining software to use in the emulators is not. Apple's FairPlay DRM would likely need to be illegally circumvented for the applications to run on the emulator, which is where the legal challenges begin. Any application available in the App Store, even free, is likely illegal to distribute or acquire for use in the emulator from a non-App Store source.
The BlackBerry developer website has a tool for packaging Android 2.3.3 applications to function on the BlackBerry PlayBook. Should the iOS emulator be released and allowed to remain in distribution, the Playbook would become the first mobile device to run apps from all three major sources -- BlackBerry, Android, and Apple iOS.
The first iOS on BlackBerry video
One of the skeptic's challenges