By Shao128 on 18 Oct 2011 10:25 pm EDT

For those that attended, watched the live stream or followed our live blog of today's BlackBerry DevCon keynote event, you may have noticed one thing stuck out, and not because it was a focus of the keynote, but because it was absent. There was no mention of the current Java platform on which the BlackBerry Smartphone OS is based. It started to become clear to that the future of Java development for BlackBerry was about to head into extinction. The BlackBerry App Player, which we had previously had a glance at during BlackBerry World, was no where to be found.

Later in the day during a press session we were able to get a few more answers, but they were not what I was hoping to hear. The BlackBerry App player is no more -- once the transition is made to the BBX superphones, none of the current BlackBerry apps will work on them. In my mind the first thing I thought was that the 20+ BlackBerry apps that I have released have just become obsolete. Now while I do understand that even when the BBX phones hit next year there will still be a demand for a few more years to come, the tough realization that apps that I have spent years of my life developing and improving will all need to be re-written on the new platform. Am I upset? Right now it's some pretty mixed emotions. I do see the vision RIM has moving forward with a new platform and new developer tools, but at the same time I think about the long road ahead of me to make the transition.

RIM showed a lot today to try to recruit new developers to platform with all the great new tools, but there was no mention of what they are doing to make things easier on the current developers that are working on the java platform. The current java tools ...  quite frankly ... are poor at best, so I guess we'll have to put up with them for just a little while longer.

Having said all that, I'm not going anywhere. BlackBerry is still my choice of smartphone and my choice of development platform. How do you feel about the current apps not working when BBX is released? Let us know in the comments.

Reader comments



End of an era? I feel bad for developers like FIXMO who have poured mega-bucks into R&D and the likes and have apps specifically for/based in BBOS and the JDE. :/

Same issue with Symbian developers when having to convert to WP7 when Nokia jumped ship. It'll be interesting to see what happens...I guess Rim decided to go down the Android path and not bother taking the time to add the Blackberry Player. Hopefully RIM will make available resources to help devs port their Blackberry apps onto the new platform...

Now the question is will the developers charge us for the BBX versions? I figure this was one of the main reasons not many developers wrote for , they know this was a posability. The android versions of apps we have should work right?

Developing apps for blackberry was HARD! I was very surprised how blackberry didn't have more unified API and better tools. To be honest it is time, JDE was good for awhile but its limitations are dragging Blackberry's, with qnx there is more and flexible ways to create apps and as today thanks to the native SDK many apps written for linux, unix, qnx, BSD and some OSX apps can be ported and that is a great thing. Running android apps on the playbook os its just the cherry on top of the cake.

I feel bad for the JDE developers, but I think RIM made a good pitch for BBX, and maybe it's time to move on (to BBX). Maybe some java apps could be re-written for html5 and deployed on other platforms (iOS, Android). I think the JDE developers should look at this as an opportunity :).

As sad as it may be that the whole catalog will have to be rewritten, at least we know that the apps will be really impressive once they make the jump.

Myself, I have a newfound desire to code. I was warry of learning Java so this kinda comes as good news (didn't they say AIR is easy to learn?)

Having developed for both BB Java and WebWorks, I can see both sides of the issue. That said, I'm actually glad they're not allocating resources into a BBOS Player. There were so many Java APIs that had detailed behaviors for things that no longer exist or don't translate well into the new platform. The emulation would never be perfect, there would be complaints on compatibility, and it's all for an environment not shared among other platforms. I too will be discarding much legacy code. Fortunately WebWorks really makes a lot of things much easier than they were in Java.

It was bound to happen eventually, but it should have been 3 years ago before they started introducing so many new devices with different resolutions and input methods. I feel bad for all the developers that stuck with the platform with the promise of forward compatibility only to be misled. The reason why there are so many developers for iPhone is not just because of the customer base, it's because the first 3 iterations had the same resolution and the next two had double... It's a lot easier to deliver a consistent experience when you don't have to cater to multiple resolutions, orientations and OS versions.

Goodbye JDE, and way to suck the life out of BB developers for years... Rot in hell!

I guess/ hope that developers will not be left out in the cold, and that RIM will somehow help you guys to transition to BBX...

Yes... and at this rate RIM will be R.I.P. I am not thinking that I shouldn't have gone for a Bold 9900.

It's also not impossible that RIM will continue to produce "legacy" models for a year or two; there are a lot of enterprises with significant investment in BES that will want phones that work with their infrastructure.

To Shao, Jason and all other blackberry developers - I am so glad that you stayed on with blackberry and all those that wish to continue to write apps for the new platform----I will happily repurchase every app that I have or ones similar! You deserve it! A big THANK YOU!!!!
And for those that jumped ship- bite me. lol

I agree as well. A ton of time and effort has been put into countless apps made with java. The fact that you developers will have to rewrite everything and sacrifice time that could be spent on new applications is more than reason enough to charge for the new iterations on QNX. It might have to be a lower price as you did collect the money, while the customers are unable to use their previous purchase on a QNX os. It wouldn't be right to charge full price, but it wouldn't be right for us to ask for a free app either.

I'll re-purchase. And honestly, I'd probably re-purchase at the same price. I just don't think many more people would.

As a dev of 3 years primarily doing Blackberry apps I definitely feel disappointed, not only for the decision by RIM but for the lack of transparency in coming to this decision. Why lie to developers and promise that "legacy" BB apps will run on the newer devices for the past 6 months.

It's a joke that they say at DevCon that their goal is to help the developers but meanwhile effectively kill the platform that 99% of the developers have been developing on.

I'm aware that I can rewrite my 40+ BB apps in Android to run on the BBX platform, but I wish I knew much earlier that it would've been my only option before investing all of the time on maintaining those apps for the past year.

^ This is the most logical and rational response if the JDE is in fact dead. While you'd undoubtedly be able to create much more exciting apps with BBX tools, the notion of having to abandon your current app base must be a big disappointment. The return on investment is unlikely what you had anticipated when you took the initiative to maintain your apps.

I hope you don't jump ship and have a much better time developing with the BBX tools and hopefully native SDK in a more reasonable timeframe than the PB's native SDK... Thanks for all your work!

I am just going to assume the posting is in fact true. Still, I will tell you that I don't believe the OS7 phones are going away for at least five years.

I love my Bold 9930 and don't need video chat and all the media stuff the BBX phones will provice. RIM said that this OS7 devices are going to continue to be supported for years to come.

I really believe the Bold 9930 is the best phone out there for me and I'm still learning cool stuff.

I'm sorry they won't port your apps for BBX phones and a part of me still hopes they do but I am buying apps all the time and OS7 will be here for the next five years.

Thanks for your apps and rest assured that we will continue to buy and use OS7 apps for years and years.

This is a very good response, and highlights the problem with this decision: not that it wasn't necessary, but that it wasn't transparent nor given adequate strategic support.**

This should have been announced when the PlayBook was released at the latest. Either RIM knew they couldn't get this to work and were holding their cards to their chest, or they didn't know and are just lashing out, which is worse.

It also smacks of the kind of strategic waffling that Nokia went through: was it Symbian this month? Maemo? Meego? With or without Qt? Microsoft did something similar with WP7: burning all the developers of WM without much in the way of communication.

Developers get uncertain, and won't commit one way or the other to the platform as a whole. Do you want to write software for a platform that the it's vendor hasn't even sorted out and committed to yet?

Compare this to, say, Apple or Microsoft's desktop group, which provide sunset dates, transition methods and long-term plans. Again, it's not that RIM had to do it---Apple had to throw Classic, Carbon and Rosetta all under a bus over the past decade---it's that they did it without a lot of lead time, (it looks like) not a lot of investment in transition tools and, worst, the impression that classic apps would have run.

** unless it's still a few years away, in which case RIM has other problems.

I'm really disappointed about the death of java for BBX.

at first the good things:
it's great to see that BBX supports HTML5/CSS3, Adobe Air... really great and this will be good for web developers of mobile applications.
also awesome to see all the Game development possible on PlayBook / BBX

the native SDK also looks nice with Cascade UI Framework. As a Java Developer you have to learn C++ and Qt and QML and then you'll get a framework to develop modern UI with animations out of the box. the team of TAT did a really good job.
But Cascade will come out in November with a small first set of functionality and a 1.0 is expected in spring 2012. there's not only UI but also databinding w XML, JSON, SQLite using a simple ListModel at the moment.
from first view this sounds good.

but this is only for simple applications. If you're building complex business apps for BlackBerry OS 6/7 and you're using Platform Services like Maps, LBS, Push Services, Communication with background apps and and and all the cool stuff currently possible with BlackBerry OS 6 / 7 then you're lost. .... will need a long time for a brandnew framework like Native SDK + Cascade UI to provide all these things.

ok - what about Android Player ? at first also sounds good: easy ways to repackage existing Android Apps and make them run on the PlayBook. But not all APIs are supported and again: if converting Tools, Games etc. it will work great and bring more Applications to AppWorld. But if you're a Business App Developer and you have integrated Maps, LBS, need Push Services, BBM etc: no way with the Android Player. Also this Player is only 2.3 - a SmartPhone-Android, not a Tablet Version. (I know in this case Google is guilty not providing Android 3.0 Open Source)

for me it's a real dilemma: I like the BlackBerry Platform, all the Services, the new Devices, all the cool Java API for OS6 and 7. Many times I demonstrated cool apps to Android and iOS developers who are astonished what can be done on BlackBerry OS. Even some weeks ago new Devices for OS 7 were launched and new API for NFC, Augmented reality etc. for Java was provided and I motivated Java Developers from other platforms to develop for BlackBerry.
and now: Dead End ?

couldn't believe this.
today I read that a Java ME Player for BB OS would be too slow. hmmmm
there would be other ways possible to bring Java to BBX:
Use Android, fork it and add BB Security and Platform Services on top
or work on an OpenJDK Port for BBX like its done for OSX (both have same Mikrokernel)

Cutting off a huge community of enthusiastic Java developers is a step in the wrong direction from my POV. ....and this happens the same day where Android IceCream was announced. bad timing....

curious to see what all the existing Java Developers will do - I myself am still thinking about what's the best way. will take 1-2 years to have full featured BBX Smartphones, so there's some time for me (and other existing BlackBerry Java Developers) to think about
but what about new mobile developers ? if they are Java developers will they go to learn C++, Qt.... for native BBX Development ? or will they choose Android. What about those developers thinking about jumping into the C-world ? will they choose BBX-Native SDK only because TAT developed such cool Cascade UI Framework or will they choose Objective-C or WP7 instead ?

of course if you're a web developer you can be happy using WebWorks.

having a Java SDK for BBX would be a much better way to go from my POV...

Anyone that buys a blackberry today will be using it for an average of 18-24 months, during that time the apps that person will be using will be java based, slowly over that time the new platform will be adopted, but it will not happen overnight. Too many developers had abandoned java already and RIM is adapting to the new reality.

At this time there is a buzz over the linux community about porting their apps to the tablet os, bring in them will help RIM close the "app gap" with open source apps.

Great post and 100% agree with you, we build BlackBerry apps from 2004 and now I really don't know what to do, we need long time to port our apps to BBX, making apps for Android and re-packaging has some problems: speed and not all native API will be available. So, a Java SDK for BBX would be really good. Another way R.I.P R.I.M...

If the view has been that BB OS is a dying platform, RIM has to do something radical to persuade developers that they're doing something serious for their future. Had RIM kept with the old tried and true, it would certainly be the end of RIM, as the criticism would certainly be that they're blind to what's happening around them. Imagine if Microsoft stayed with MS-DOS or Apple stayed with their original Mac OS. They'd be dead today.

I was happy to hear about all the API's announced today. RIM didn't select these casually. They went to developers, albeit not necessarily their BB OS developers, and picked the ones that would provide the best bang for their development efforts.

Like others have said, the transition will take time. (Hasn't there been complaints about how long it takes for RIM to deploy?!) Current developers will have plenty of time to learn.

We don't have to learn anything but Android.

What will happen is that Playbook users will end up with Android apps to choose from in the main, and without device specific apps.

So there'll be little app differentiation on the platform, and therefore little reason to buy a Playbook.

You're shrinking available apps from 40,000 to maybe 5,000 - and when BBX is released, how many of those will be in the smaller form factor.

This is a stupid decision. RIM doesn't have time for transition. The company is about to die on its feet with an unnecessary gamble.

From people's reaction to the Android Player, it sure doesn't sound like the end-all for porting from Android. There are Google API services that won't be available and hitting Playbook hardware won't be possible either. For a developer who wants speed in his/her application, development on the Playbook directly is the way to go.

"RIM doesn't have time for transition." Guess what? They don't have time to stick with what's been done before either. Everyone's been clamoring for them to catch up and they've taken bold initiatives in that direction. The complaints haven't been that they're moving too fast, but rather too slowly.

Nice post :)
I hope RIM will release a JRE for BBX so that the business logic can be implemented in Java, while the UI can be done in Cascade or HTML.
It will just like developing web apps using a Java app server.

its really bad
I'm really disappointed about the death of java for BBX.
RIM must provide any port to change jde code run in QNX OS..

Wow, RIMPIRE strikes back really hard, no chance for "Return of the Java-knights"

If RIM intend to replace their loyal Java devs with Android devs, then it is quite logical Java devs to replace BlackBerry with Android as development environment.

No country for old men...

This doesnt make sense to me? So kill off the BlackBerry Java API's, but why cant Java as a language be supported on BBX? Make me learn an entire new BBX based API, a clean on, a modern efficient one, but using the language struture I know. BB Java developers aside, why deny the platform potential Java developers. If RIM can make Flash\Air run on the playbook, why not Java.

The irony is that QNX already has a JVM.

But evidently RIM don't want to pay a license fee to Oracle for each Playbook or BBX phone.

It's one reason RIM isn't competitive with Android. Google don't license Java - RIM have no choice.

Not great news. Im sure the new native sdk will probably be better. Couldn't be much more of a beast to develop with than the java one, but will small time developers like me use the opportunity (or lack of) to jump over to iPhone or android development. I doubt there will be a flood of iPhone developers coming over to blackberry because the development will be c based i'm sure it won't be that similar to objective-c (sorry i haven't done my homework on the bbx version of c yet)

I've only got the one app on app world (gpspeedometer) half way thru a major upgrade now, should i scrap that? i think so. Not really worth the hassle to keep developing with the java sdk.
From what i see from app world and mobihand, altho you do get a good few downloads from older devices, already more than half my downloads are on os7 (haven't checked the free version which would be a better test as it gets more downloads), but basically i would imagine as soon as the bbx phones come out sales will be halved in a couple of months and probably down to about a fifth within a year for the legacy java apps.

Sorry if that sounds ignorant and or bitter :P didn't mean it to. I'll still be sticking with blackberry for my phone, but i might give one of the other platforms a go for developing on.

just checked my figures again.
Looks like this for my app

free version went like this

18th sept - 7% downloads os 7, 63% older os's
18tt Oct - 25% downloads os 7, 75% older os's

Paid version (over 3 day periods to get numbers high enough to average out)

19th -21st Sept - 5% downloads on os 7
16th-18th oct - 58% downloads on os 7

People who run out and buy the new phones are more likely to be the same people that use paid apps over free apps?? So only free apps will continue to get downloads past about 3-6 months prior to BBX release?

Theres really no point in creating any new apps or even updating existing apps on the jdk. So for the next year at least theres probably going to be not much movement in app world not many new useful apps i would guess anyway.

"Theres really no point in creating any new apps or even updating existing apps on the jdk."

Agreed. We stopped developing a few months ago when we realised their strategy.

It's pretty dumb for a company in transition. Protect what you have should be their motto, but they've left us out in the cold.

This is a very good point.

This move, without a transition plan, effectively murders a lot of app development for classic BlackBerries. If they weren't second-class citizens in terms of app availability before, they're certainly going to be so now.

It also means that the existing installed base of ~70M users is not particularly valuable. This is the problem that Windows Phone has when it jettisoned WM support. It also means that BBX is likely a fourth-in-line development target behind iOS, Android and WP.

How is it possible for MS to jettison their entire WM developers and yet they're being considered /third/ in line for developers?! They certainly didn't gain developers from iOS or Android, or did they? Did they retain their developers? Why can't RIM/Blackberry do the same? What's the rationale?

I hope that customers can understand that if we have to completely rewrite an app in a different language for a different OS, we probably have to charge for it again; it wasn't our decision but it was our time.

For those of us who wrote mostly utilities, it's even worse. A game can carry over its user base to a new platform. A utility often cannot; there might not be a need for it on the new platform, there would be a need for other utilities, so it's starting from scratch.

That's really the fault of those of us who invested time in utilities -- should have known -- and people who write apps that are platform-independent in function are going to get their due reward for making the best long-term choices of what to write.

(i.e. Electronic Arts continues to rule after 30 years!)

As a user, not a developer, this seem like a poor decision by RIM. RIM has many different phones, so upgrading takes time for developers. So a new phone, sometimes means a prior app doesn't work the same or doesn't work at all. Most users just want things to work. They don't care why it doesn't and don't want to wait for a new app. That's one reason, I never rush to buy a new Blackberry. Developers haven't had a chance to port my apps yet. Now RIM disrupts it's existing developer community? RIM you need these guys. Cater to them. This seems as bad as the Blackberry service outage.

Great points a54. And accurate.

Try find OS7 equivalents of many popular apps. My bank hasn't switched its app yet for example - and its a WebWorks app!

So even if development didn't take a drastic change, OS6 -> OS7, developers still have a hard time adapting? It shouldn't be difficult, right? The lack of update can only be attributed to developer abandonment. And if that's the case, then why not take the time to release a development system with more future possibilities?

I feel bad for the developers, but the truth is that BlackBerry apps written in Java are pretty terrible. There are very few BB apps that are visually pleasing and responsive, and that's not the developers fault. With the new options available for BBX, we will have a fresh slate of quality apps built with the proper NDK.

Never mind what they look like, do they do the job?

And do you mind paying for the app again? Because the developer will have to recover the cost of developing the program again (assuming they bother).

And who says there'll be much of a choice.

One year after the Playbook was introduced there's around 4,000 apps.

That's a huge amount less than one year after App World started for BlackBerry.

RIM is gambling the company on developers switching technologies. Why should we?

It's what I expected (a post on subject on the BB Developer blog was rejected!) and convinces me RIM is now run by idiots.

We have a couple of apps on App World, but have stopped developing on the BlackBerry platform because of the clear indications - as long ago as a year ago - that Java would have no support (I blame Google and Oracle for destroying Java).

What this means is that when BBX launches unless RIM is successful in attracting Android developers (who in any case develop in Java mostly) they will have only a few thousand applications on App World - and not the 40,000 available to BB OS users.

It's complete madness. They're betting the company on new technology they can't even deliver in demo form and punishing their existing customers who are paying good money for apps they can't use in a year or two.

It's not that I can't see the logic of the different technologies - though HTML5 is never going to be as flexible as Java - it's the manner in which they've implemented the strategy.

If they're going to run Java for Android, why couldn't they run BlackBerry apps? My guess is their legal department made the decision. But Google will lose it's case against Oracle and RIM will look pretty stupid when Playbook owners have to pay a premium because they run Android apps.

My company has a choice. Either switch skills and software (a considerable investment) to Actionscript, C or HTML5 or stick with Java on the Android platform.

If the ludicrous numbers quoted by RIM for developer earnings were anything like true we might switch. They're not.

I expected this: when the Java platform was announced I thought there were too many supported platforms to be sustainable (I'm surprised AIR is still hanging on). I think what developers should be upset at is RIM's lack of transparency and forward notice regarding this.

Wow, so we were told Blackberry apps on Playbook and now we have a formal backout. Wonder what the next thing they said it would do that they will back out on next. Seriously a Blackberry Player would have been so hard to do. Of course the fanboys will say we weren't told anything and anything over 1.01 on the Playbook is a blessing.

Also developers have no incentive to develop native apps for my brand new 9900. Have to get webworks and HTML 5 for apps anymore. Thanks for bending over the OS7 people RIM.

Look- I don't know the first thing about what it takes to make an app - BUT- I DO know that developers are going away from making them for blackberry and have been. As many have said RIM is dead if there are no developers so they are in a hard place. No matter what they do people are telling them how they should have done this or that different. I don't know how they can possibly please us all.
I just hope that many of you developers will try to hold out and move forward with the changes. I think the blackberry os will be relevant for quite a few years yet so there will be transitions. Please hang in and don't abandon blackberry we need you and I for one will be rebuying apps to support you!

Wow, BB devs just got kicked in the teeth. The ability to run Android apps is bad enough. Why would anyone buy your good app that you had to rewrite when Android already has tons of free apps that are crappy but claim to do the same thing.

Your chances of earning revenue with your upcoming app just got diluted by the swarm of apps already out there that do the same type of thing and already have hundreds of reviews.

Ouch. If you're going to have to write Android apps for the 20-percent market share that is currently for BB phones, why not just write Android apps for 40-percent market share of Android phones and forget about BB entirely? They seem to be making it easy for devs to do just that.

To tell you the truth, even after years of Java development I'm still barely able to get anything done with it. It stinks!!! I'm glad to see it go, but I sure wish that we'd had more warning. Already in a few months, the BBX phones will start taking customers away from old-BB developers' apps.

Looking back it's easy to see they wanted us to start switching to Adobe or WebWorks a year ago. The tragedy is they didn't just come out and say, "This is the future, Java is on the way out." If they'd done that, a lot of us would have saved ourselves a year of digging ourselves into a hole.

found this on a rim related article from earlier this year.....well worth a read:

Hamranhansenhansen (http://www.mondaynote.com/2011/03/27/rim-the-inmates-have-taken-over-the...)
Posted March 28, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink
> One thought, however, on the bits about Android apps
> running slower by comparison. That may be true, but
> I’m not sure we can assume that just yet. Android apps
> even on *Android* devices run in a VM.
Yes, which is why they run so badly on Android as well. I think the comparison here is between VM apps and native apps, vis a vis RIM’s announcement that they will have Android apps at launch, but their native C/C++ SDK doesn’t ship until later.
Right now, iOS has a native C/C++/Objective-C advantage all to itself. Apple’s mobiles are the only mobiles that are open to C developers. Every other mobile walls its C development off just for the device maker. Native development enables Apple to have lower RAM (cheaper devices), longer battery life, and a much broader range of much more powerful apps. Especially in games, which are all written in C++. That is an outrageous advantage over other mobile platforms.
I would have liked to have seen RIM focus on making PlayBook the best HTML5 platform they can make and the best native C/C++ platform they can make. Make the HTML5 platform as iOS-like as possible (they are already using Apple WebKit as their browser engine) so that iPhone/iPad Web apps just work. And make it as easy as possible to port an iOS native C/C++/Objective-C app to PlayBook.
Right now, iOS developers have nowhere to port to. RIM is saying “Android developers, port to PlayBook” even though Android apps are VM apps. They should be saying “iOS developers, port to PlayBook”. They should be betting the whole PlayBook on that. Right now, iOS developers are spoiled by 3 things: native C, a limited range of highly compatible devices for deployment and testing, and a great end-to-end developer program with built-in remuneration. Nobody else has been willing to provide even 1 of those 3 things to iOS developers. RIM is uniquely positioned to provide all 3, if that had been their priority.
But like Steve Jobs said, RIM doesn’t know what they are doing as far as being a computer maker and offering a software platform. They are building a device independent of thinking of it as a development platform and hoping developers will sort it all out. With Apple, as much as the iOS SDK shipped a year after the first device, the SDK actually preceded the device. Developers inside Apple used that SDK to make the built-in iPhone apps that shipped with the first device. iOS was built as an app platform, which is why 3rd party developers lost their minds when they saw it and wanted to develop for it. It’s a phone where the T9 keypad has been replaced with app icons!
I think the next important event in PlayBook’s life will be when the native SDK ships. If it is awesome, PlayBook may be around in 5 years. If the native SDK sucks, put a fork in it.