BlackBerry Widgets- A Better Understanding Of What They Are

By Bla1ze on 7 Oct 2009 11:33 am EDT
BlackBerry Widgets

As some of you may have read, RIM recently released a brand new SDK for BlackBerry Developers. This SDK consisted of the tools needed in order to make "BlackBerry Widgets". Widget is a term we have heard used many times before in regards to the BlackBerry Smartphone platform, but this is the first time will we get to see the fulll implementation of what exactly it means to BlackBerry.

With the release of the SDK came a lot of questions - specifically revolving around the fact that users wanted to be sure these widgets were not just simply web launchers or browser homescreen links. After having spoken with Mike Kirkup, Director Of Developer Relations at RIM, I can gladly say this is not the case.

BlackBerry Widgets are something all developers should be excited about. The SDK is opening the doors to to make use of new ideas and new services which have never been available before now. This is a great time to be a BlackBerry Developer. These advancements have been a long time coming and are greatly needed.

Now, this is exciting for developer and end users alike. Developers get to harness the power of tools such as CSS, HTML, SQLite and finally, Google Gears and Javascript, and place it all in line with the BlackBerry OS. But as an end user what does this mean? It means nice, visually pleasing, feature-rich widgets on your BlackBerry that act more like applications and an integrated part of the OS.

One example would be installing a developer made widget of your favorite website on your device, opening that widget and getting the content you want pushed directly to your BlackBerry screen, all without having to pull open your web browser and refresh to see the latest news, sport scores or what have you.

It means taking your Google address book, making a widget out of it and having it appear on your device, just as it would have if you had sat at your PC and viewed it from there, because all of the tools used to create that address book are available to be used on your BlackBerry. (Think of the gmail mobile app and how it looks)nThe possibilites for feature-rich content, anything from video applications to chat applications, are endless now due to the platform integration being offered here. My examples are set up on a small scale and I'm sure many of you have much better ideas then I have outlined (I have heard some great ones already) but for the sake of simplicity I offer these.

Recently there has been increasing talk of how badly the BlackBerry OS needs a refresh. I myself have mentioned it on numerous occasions on the CrackBerry podcast. This is RIM's answer to that need as I see it, and while it may not be the drastic change that some have been hoping for, it is indeed a change that is for the greater good, and I look forward to seeing what RIM and developers can make of this innovation.

Topics: Editorial

Reader comments

BlackBerry Widgets- A Better Understanding Of What They Are


IMO this kind of analysis is what Crackberry needs more of, less contests/theme sales/"OMG!!! BB 9850 CASE FOUND IN ROGERS SYSTEM!"

Agreed. All the fluff "crap" on the blogs have shoved crackberry pretty far down on the list of blogs and sites I check regularly for tech news.

Thanks for the info. This truly is an amazing option for developers. All thought I'm still working out the bugs with installing and running on vista.... ugh

Sorry guys, I think this release is terrible.

If it was Apple, it would have been a much bigger deal, everybody would be talking about it, and the excitement would be in everyone's hands right now (and Im a BB addict).

First: the launch would take place at a big event with reporters from all over the world (you want coverage)

Second: Jobs and his marketing dept would have made a big deal about it, show how cool it is.

Third: There would be 2-3 widgets ready for everyone to download and use on their beloved BB right now.

Sorry guys, this is almost pathetic, and RIM needs to learn Marketing 101 now.

Ya, what he said.

Seriously, RIM I know your capable of breaking out of the mold. Go outside of your internal walls and get innovative.

So based on the diagram, would a developed widget work on any Blackberry and any OS that supported widgets?

Whereas an application would "plug in" at the OS API level and be specific to hardware and OS version?

BlackBerry widgets are essentially RIM's take on the webOS app architecture that features on the Palm Pre. Widgets are archives containing HTML, images, CSS sheets and javascript. Unlike Palm however, RIM are exposing comparatively little of the underlying platform to widget developers. It feels a bit half-baked, as though it was hurriedly rushed out the door. Disappointing.

This is the first time I've heard of BlackBerry Widgets. I'm a developer (.net developer) and am turned off from BlackBerry development because it's based on the Java platform. So to me widgets sound interesting, but I want to see an example widget (that's free) that I can play with on my Storm, I want to know where I can get more information about BB Widgets and how to develop them.

This time last year I was also a .NET developer. Going from C# to Java is not difficult. And it's easier than going from C# to Objective-C which is what you'd have to do to develop for iPhone.

This really is what Palm's WebOS allows for in terms of applications, and I think it is part of the reason that there are so few applications available for that platform.

Why anyone would want to write applications in JavaScript is beyond me...

I fully agree. In my experience, a great many javascript apps are unintelligible spaghetti and I have serious concerns for the medium to long term maintainability of many of them.

But as a "glue" language, not as a whole application language.

Near as I can figure, that's what it's used for with the RIM widgets concept.