Last week I had the pleasure of spending my day in New York City at Pace University with some folks from RIM and a room full of students who had never developed for BlackBerry before. Last year I attended the NYC BBM Hackathon as well, so I somewhat had an idea of what to expect, but this was completely different. Last year I was in a room full of BlackBerry developers -- they had an idea, they had an app and they wanted to integrate the new social end of the BBM integration -- this year it was students. These students who were attending signed up only based on the fact that RIM was coming to talk to them, teach them about some development tools and to talk about HTML5 and the benefits it brought.
Over 40 students signed up for the Future Developers day hoping to gain some knowledge, learn some things about the BlackBerry coding process and identify some of the benefits. Little did the students know that when they walked into the room and signed in that RIM would be handing them a brand new BlackBerry PlayBook to keep and help with their development efforts. With each student that entered and got their PlayBook the energy in the room just continued to fill and fill.
Sure, you may be thinking that it is only because it was free, but that wasn't the case. A majority of the students in attendence had never really heard much about the PlayBook, a bunch of them were iPhone and Android users, but each and every one of them was excited. They all powered on the PlayBooks, walked through the setup, and then trying to figure out just how it worked. For many of them this was their first time holding the PlayBook, they had some questions about menus and how to get out of apps, but once they figured all of this out they were in heaven.
The folks from the developer team at RIM had put together some great powerpoint presentations which gave some awesome statistics to the developers. They portrayed how powerful HTML5 really was, how it was able to deliver content so easily, and could be used on a variety of platforms. They gave download numbers, and App World numbers, and the energy in the room was pretty great. The developers realized they could make some money here, there was a lot of niches to be filled, and a lot of room for great ideas shine through.
RIM's message was pretty clear to these developers. The BlackBerry PlayBook is just the start of the future for development, the ideas shouldn't be PlayBook specific, as once BlackBerry 10 hits it will be unified. While RIM doesn't discourage developers from developing for the BlackBerry 7 and older devices, that is not their vision of the future. This message is very obvious if you look at what RIM is giving away recently, the PlayBook. While many of you may think this is because sales aren't there, that isn't what motivates them to do this. They want the PlayBook in the hands of these potential future developers because that is where the platform is heading.
HTML5 and WebWorks apps are very important to RIM, they run wonderfully on the platform, there is a ton of developer tools available from RIM for the developers and all of that is free. Many hours have been spent by the developer team taking a look at the tools available and making them better for the developers, and while they may not be perfect still they have improved significantly. I watched a room full of students who had never developed for BlackBerry get all set up with the tools they needed, and their signing keys in under 2 hours. That is pretty impressive considering this process used to take days to complete for many developers, and these folks without any previous knowledge of the platform had it up and running in basically no time.
From the larger of events like BlackBerry 10 Jam to the smaller events like this Future Developers Day, it is obvious that RIM is dedicated to their developers. They fully understand that they need this development community to be strong, they want them to have all the resources that they need without delays. RIM has put tons of additional effort into ensuring that the tools are released along side new devices, if not before their launch. From a developer perspective that is extremely important, and something that many have griped about for a while.
BlackBerry 10 is huge to RIM and they want the developers to feel the same way. With so much potential, and so many apps that are still yet to be developed, what better time is there to start developing for BlackBerry than now?
Contest: Are you a developer that has a great idea for a BlackBerry app, but just aren't sure where to start? Well we have a BlackBerry PlayBook to give away to a lucky developer looking to get going on the BlackBerry platform. There are plenty of you out there with some great ideas just waiting to make them a reality. So developers, let's hear it. Pitch an app idea that you have and are willing to make, and you may just get this beautiful piece of hardware to make it a reality (Leave you idea in the comments here - just a general notion, you don't have to go into detail). Contest ends Sunday at midnight PST.