What the Android App Player means for BlackBerry

Multiple porting options coming soon
By Joseph Holder on 27 Jul 2011 04:00 pm EDT

Two nights ago, I installed the leaked Android App Player on to my BlackBerry PlayBook. It was an arduous process that involved several hours of researching, finding bad or poorly worded instructions, and downloading hundreds of megabytes worth of SDK's (note the plural) and a JRE and a JDK and this and that. That's a lot of work to install a resource-hogging, semi-functional application. Nevertheless I am amazed.

I am amazed, not necessarily at the application itself, but the ideas it represents. The first is the more apparent of the two. The Android App Player doesn't just emulate or represent the Android operating system. It is the Android operating system. Android exists as a virtual machine on the PlayBook tablet. Most people don't run virtual machines on their home computers, let alone a "mere" tablet.

As best I can figure, the BlackBerry PlayBook is the first tablet to run multiple operating systems simultaneously. More than that, bringing the Android OS to the PlayBook represents a fundamental shift in the app ecosystem. If the Mountain will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain.

BlackBerry Choice

Android OS on BlackBerry 

By that I mean, if app developers are wary of developing for the BlackBerry platform, then the BlackBerry platform will come to the developers. At the heart of every business or organization should be one idea: Take care of your customers or someone else will. At first glance, you might not think of App developers being Research In Motion's customers, but they most certainly are.

Research In Motion must do what it can to woo and support and nurture those customers because, increasingly, its business and enterprise customers are demanding more those apps that they create. Supporting Android apps on the BlackBerry brand means those end consumers have more choice than ever before. The Android app player has the potential to run virtually any app within the Android Market(dialers, call-blockers, and the like excluded). By definition (and again excluding phone-function apps), the BlackBerry PlayBook will support more apps than almost any Android tablet or smartphone.

It all boils down to a choice for developers. Applications on the PlayBook can be written in a variety of languages and platforms. Adobe Flash CS5 creates apps that run on iOS, Android OS, and BlackBerry Tablet OS all from the same source code. Soon, the Android App player will allow those Android developers an entirely new market to sell their apps. Purportedly, only very minor changes will be required to port those apps to multiple operating systems.

Release of the PlayBook's Native Development Kit will unlock the vast power of the C/C++ language. I do not use that term lightly. Add to that the luxurious user interfaces created by The Astonishing Tribebaked right in to the development kit. According to QNX's Dan Dodge, applications that run on the Linux or Mac OS X platforms, should be simple to port the BlackBerry Tablet OS. In short, the PlayBook will be able to run some very powerful apps.

What this means for us 

Simply stated, it means an entire catalog of apps should be on the way to BlackBerry. It means developers don't have to make a choice as to whether or not to support the PlayBook. The PlayBook will do it for them.

There may come a day when a person might ask, "How many apps can the PlayBook run?" It's not inconceivable that the answer may be, "All of them." With QNX-powed BlackBerry Smartphones on the 2012 horizon, perhaps it's also possible that this BlackBerry Choice for developers might extend beyond the company's tablet offerings.

Reader comments

What the Android App Player means for BlackBerry


Can't wait. I think this is a good idea, harness the apps from android, who cares if they are not native.

Devices whose emphasis is on apps (see also games) are indeed toys (see also nintendo ds). Devices that emphasize device performance, a brilliant OS and apps as a secondary are not.

thats pretty dumb, stupid even.
My "toy" (ipod tocuh 4G , does a way better job at browsing then youre e-mail / pager / calculator machine thing. Also with media it blows your litte 2 inch screen out of the water.

I rather have a toy then a inferiour product wich i cant do a damn thing with. E-mail sending is so '90's, tell me ,are you proud of your PDA 2.0?

Why oh why do people like you come to this website?

Newsflash about 90 percent of the people who buy blackberries can afford an iPhone and CHOOSE not to, think about it.

Just a question: who the hell was it who told all people around the world that the phones which we carry around are there for browsing the web with them? Why do I have to make my decision for buying a mobile phone depending on its web browsing skills? Just imagine there are still people who wnat to use their phones for organizing, messaging and voice calling. And in this case BlackBerry is the best. A good browsing experience on the go is nice to have and also THIS we CAN do with BlackBerrys.

Phil gets the dunce cap. What a dope. Ahhh..duh...gee Phil I guess you must be talking about the games you play on your iPad or the fart app that turns you on. What a total idiot.

I was actually referring to productivity apps and I don't have an iPad but thank you for resorting to name calling and displaying your ignorance.

Yeah, that's just wonderful. However, Android developers aren't writing software for BlackBerry devices, but instead for Android devices. Therefore these Android apps don't follow BlackBerry design standards, hook into the BlackBerry experience, etc. The result: if I want to run Android apps, I would get an Android tablet so that the experience is seamless.

However, I am interested in a BlackBerry PlayBook for the BlackBerry experience. Without native apps, the experience is lacking. Bringing on board an Android VM doesn't fix the issue (a serious lack of developer interest) but instead only tries to divert attention away from the issue.


The PlayBook isn't a conventional BlackBerry device. Let's wait and see how well these ported Android apps port over to QNX before rushing to judgement.

@xxplosive2k282 I agree. I have no intention of buying a tablet. How does the Android port affect the phones? I don't think it has a huge impact if only the PlayBook is capable of running Android apps. I'm assuming the BB phones will once QNX is the OS across the board but until then, I don't see a huge impact.

I think just the opposite. Currently, there isn't a whole lot of interest on the developers' part to dev for the BBTOS, the take up is still relatively small for the PB, despite the amazing platform. With the introduction of android apps is gives consumers a broader choice, why get an android tablet that only runs android apps when you can get a PB and run android apps and BBTOS apps. You're getting more from the PB and awesome hardware to boot. Hopefully this opens the market for a higher takeup of the PB, which increases the BBTOS audience, giving devs a reason to dev for the PB. Couple the increasing PB owner count/potential app buyer population with an NDK to open up the true power of the pb platform and any dev worth his saltt will start moving toward developing native apps for the pb to take advantage of the audience and the platform.

Joseph surely the finished article will be a lot different from the leaked version. I had read that The android app player should be an emulator and not a fully fledged version of the android market and its apps. What you are saying is that it will run like vmware on a mac to enable the use of osx and windows.

We had been told by Kevin and rim that it would be a sandpit version and the android apps would be modified to fit.

Yeah, what gets released won't be a full-fledged version of android marketplace... RIM wants the "android apps" to still be distributed via App World.

That doesn't mean apps will necessarily be modified to fit though. If an app is designed to scale properly or for playbook native resolution, then it'll be good.  but if an app is designed for a phone resolution, it'll still work on playbook, just with black bars around it.  i don't think rim will modify apps. so the experience could be compromised in this regard. 

fingers crossed the overall experience is good

This is something which Android users currently experience. Certain apps are made only for phones, but use them on their tablets.

Thanks for the reply Kevin. Thought I was going mad. Just wish they would hurry up with it, so I can get Kindle on my PB.

DITTO!!! Kobo is nice but many books are almost twice as expensive as Kindle. Come Blackberry start executing the game plan!

Like the author of this blog has stated, the Android App Player is game-changing and will almost certainly revolutionize the way in which the Playbook works.

Super apps, the ones that many individuals have been demanding for since day one, will be made available (assuming the developer ports it over of course). But quite frankly, this needs to come out now if there is any hope of rescuing the Playbook of obsecurity (think Apple Newton) - the buzz that was created on the Internet around the leaked version should have given RIM a clear sign that this addition will go a long way for the product. Heck, it even made it to the local radio news stations in Vancouver with reporters saying that this "shines the spotlight once again on RIM's tablet (News 1130). Hopefully, we're talking a few months from now and not some mysterious "summer" without a year attached to it. :)

Oh, why hasn't Playbook Development Kit will unlock the the vast power of the C/C++ language been released yet? Shouldn't this have already been released prior to the device actually going on sale to the public? What the heck is the hold up?

Well, obviously for security concerns - it seems that RIM values security-conscious customers more. And I wouldn't say it is not a smart move. Say, for example, the latest rumour in Russia is that iPad (which is widely used by government officials) will be banned from gov't use and replaced by "more secure" tablets. You don't have to be a genius to remeber one such tablet :) Especially since our little president has one.

Why aren't the player and NDK released yet? They're not ready yet. What kind of questions are those? It's either that or they're sitting on them for the fun of it.

While the Android app player is a very important feature for the Playbook, the technology is not all that unique. The assertion that "most people don't run virtual machines on their home computers" is false. Most people have at least a virtual Java machine plus several other "run-time libraries" to run specific code blocks.

While the ability to run another OS's apps is pretty impressive, I very much doubt the download includes all or even part of the Android OS.

virtual machines belong in the data center served off a SAN or NAS. Running them on the local machine sucks. It is mickey mouse. i don't want to launch a VM to use an application. One has to wonder that when seeing people running Windows on their Macs. If they spend more time using the Windows virtual desktop (which most users do), why did they not just get a Windows machine? i guess my point is this, if I wanted to run Android as an OS, I would have gotten an Android tablet. All i want is the apps, so if we have to bring the mountain or whatever... the apps need to run seamless with the VM engine behind the scenes. If the player is going to look anything like the leak, that really blows. I guess I was awaiting the whole app world Droid icon we all talked about a while back. Anything less at this point would be a disappointment. And can we get the auto caps already RIM?

if this comes pre-installed then I'd guess people will love it . I don't think most of us like/are-capable to/in install the whole android OS.

I thought the plan was to allow android developers to submit their android apps to Blackberry app world?

I am not sure I want to run Android OS on VM just to use google map? :(

Once things are done, it won't look like it does now.  The way I understand it, you'll start and use you Android app (sold from BlackBerry App World) just like any other app.  It will run in the Android App Player, but it will look and act and work like any other PlayBook app.

I didnt find the process of installing the Android App player that arduous, but it has a way to go yet before it is ready. I did manage to set up the native POP email, but found that the PB hung when trying to download some .jpg attachments. I think I will wait for the formal release especially since i have got hold of a side loading copy of Angry Birds! .....Sweet!

My question is why there isn't a BBOS emulator for Playbook? iPad got a big boost in the app arena by being able to run the large number of iPhone/iPod apps that were already available. This gave them some time to develop for the larger form factor.

I think it would go a long way if we could just run some existing BB phone apps on the Playbook!

Is that ignorant?

If the Android App Player is the full Android OS, do you guys think it will be possible to ''root'' the App Player and install a Custom ROM and then really have a full Android experience. That would be soooo sick.

Right, because what RIM needs to survive is propeller head geeks happy about running VMs. The way Apple has been so successful (9.25 million last quarter) is by appealing to the masses. Sorry, I personally don't want a device that will limit itself to a low key cult following. I want one that attracts developers and carries all the apps the competitors do.

Within hours of the player being available - It was downloaded by more than 500 people. Someone figured out how to load it onto the PB. Someone figured out how to load applications. There were more than 200 Android apps downloaded and tested before the sun came up the following day. These are BB users! This says more about the current state of the mobile marketplace, BB and QNX platforms than any thread, editorial, rant or otherwise. Actions speak. People both here and at RIM need to pull their head from the sand and look around.

"Two nights ago, I installed the leaked Android App Player on to my BlackBerry PlayBook. It was an arduous process that involved several hours of researching, finding bad or poorly worded instructions, and downloading hundreds of megabytes worth of SDK's (note the plural) and a JRE and a JDK and this and that. "

REALLY?? Hours to install? An arduous process? Did you check the forum? The 27 steps were easy and straight forward.

I don't recall taking hours to do. There is also an on going list of stuff that works and doesn't.

Surely you used exaggeration to try and enhance this article. It really wasn't an arduous process to install.

No exaggeration here! :)  It really did take me quite a while.  I'd never sideloaded an application on to my PlayBook before.  So I had to learn how to do that first.

I'm never one to accept a single tutorial as the only source of information, so I searched alternate ways to install, too.  At the end, I found a couple of nice tools that allowed me to do all this install work without having to install the PlayBook or Android SDK's to my computer.  I still downloaded them though ('cause the ol' 27 steps said I needed them), and that takes time on my rather slow internet connection.

Yeah, its only 27 steps if you break it down to a level of detail that any unprepared semi-computer-literate average-end-user could follow.

For me, it was simply:
1) Grab the .bar file
2) Plug in PlayBook
3) Use the loader-utility in the tablet SDK to install it
(okay, and resetting the device so the virtual keyboard would work correctly)

Then again, I've kept those tools around for a while, just to make it easier to tinker with the thing. (and I had also unpacked and examined the contents of the .bar long before installing it.)

HAHAHA Yeah I too ended up skimming the 27 steps and only actually executing on 3 of them lol
Undoing all this will probably end up becoming a data wipe haha

The Android App Player will be a great addition to the Playbook. I am excited to be a Playbook owner. Currently, there are only a few apps I anticipate using the Android App Player for (such as Netflix, if I don't decide to cancel that) but I think it's a great addition.

I am generally happy with the apps that are already available for the PB through AppWorld though. I don't need a toy, I need something to get work done, surf the web with, and read my ebooks on. The PB does a great job of that in conjuction with my BB handheld and the Bridge. I don't even miss the native email (although I know not everyone has a BB).

I read recently the rumor that RIM is looking to get the complete Microsoft Office Suite on the PB and I think that would be great, although DocsToGo is pretty much good enough for most of what I would want to do on the Playbook. The addition of Outlook might be a good thing for non-BB users but I think I'll stick with the bridge. After all, anywhere I go with my Playbook, I'm going to have my BB with me too.

Won't this be exposing RIM and RIM products to mass amounts of more malware than they've ever had to deal with?


Will the malware be confined in some way outside of QNX?

Y'all have a grand time with Mangy Birdzzz or whatever that jive is, after foolishly early adopting on the Playbook, I'll dang sure be a late adopter on anything--ANYTHING--connected to GOOG, the most privacy invasive company in the history of mankind.

This would be true, but refer to Joseph's and Kevin's comments above... This may be a VM version of the Android OS, but this is *NOT* what the Android App Player is suppose to be. Once finished it won't be the entire OS and any apps that are expected to work on RIM's version of it would have to be approved through App World. So the only risk for malware entering the ecosystem is through the same portal that current apps made for BlackBerry devices are screened through (I suppose this will increase the number of apps though and thus the likelihood of malware finding its way onto QNX-powered devices...)

Unless the approved apps have malware encoded deep inside that somehow passes inspection, I wouldn't lose any sleep over this.

simply put, without Marketplace it means nothing

ill keep my last blackberry just to show my kids that there was a time when it was manufactured in Canada!

I am not sure why you believe it is an OS running in a OS.

Basically the Android Dalvik engine will run ontop of QNX OS. The hard part is mapping services in Android (ie Connection Manager) to Services in QNX OS OR replacing Android services that are provided by QNX (ie settings, ...)

This is not a trivial amount of work and I am impressed with what they have so far. However the apps need to operate seamlessly to make the experience compelling.

hell no, i bought the playbook because it was qnx, not android. the fact it will run android is a perk but not the end all. the ability to run the virtual machine is big - this is a tablet, not a pc where virtual machines are common.

security is number 1 for RIM. that fact alone makes the tablet unique and will allow it to be adopted easily in secure environments. the android capability will expand it well beyond. running android apps will be a choice, not a requirement. i think that is a pretty wise move.

Nope. Nobody is going to buy a Blackberry tablet to run Android programs. They will simply go out and buy an Android tablet, especially if the Android is cheaper. If the Playbook doesn't have a full suite of very attractive native applications to run, it will fail. RIM made a big mistake by releasing the Playbook without such a suite. They might have mitigated this mistake by having the SDK ready to go simultaneously, but no.

I like my Playbook, and I'm not sorry I bought it. However I ran OS/2 Warp for a long time after IBM abandoned it too. Back in the day, IBM hyped OS/2 Warp as running Windows 3.1 apps as well as native apps. Except for a few die-hards, nobody was writing OS/2 apps for long. IBM realized it couldn't afford to compete with Microsoft and bailed out of the OS market, despite having an excellent product with plenty of [though not enough] fans.

If the Playbook doesn't succeed, I can see RIM taking a big expensive loss on it...all because RIM didn't commit to providing the right kind of support, and diluting their brand by giving left-hand support to a competing platform.

Please note that I'd be delighted to be wrong...

Exactly. This is not a great move my RIM and only further underscores that the PlayBook currently has no direction. Is it a BlackBerry? Well, no... it's missing many of the core BlackBerry features. Is it an Android device? Well, no... it runs a limited subset of the Android OS and can't run all apps.


As a dev I'm still far more excited for the NDK than for the Android App Player. The AAP is good for quick and easy porting over stuff for those who already make for Android, but the NDK is where all the power will be found. Plus C and C++ are so standard that any developer worth his paycheque is at least familiar with it.

I say whoooooooaaa blackberry+Android++++++++++++++++++just imagine what else can BB do, anything else, Congratulations RIM>

as soon as the android App market is inteegrated into everything blackberry! blackberry will be back in to the hands of former users for sure! as long as RIM keeps specs inside the hardware on a competing level.

this means possibly in the future alot of the handset makers like HTC will go back to making there own OS and just implementing the android app market. which means more competition again.

This comments list is full of people being negative about this. You are either trolls or just very negative people. This can only be a positive thing for the PlayBook and much respect for RIM for getting this far.

All I know is I now have kindle and words with friends on my playbook working well and the apps list and experience can only get better.

Happy days.

Think "Blackberry Balance" For those who want to take their Android Phone to work,,,, ah you get it now. I can load Android on my Corporate, secure, tried and true BBOS and run both simultaneously. Now you can thow that HTC Android phone in the garbage and have everything running on the QNX BB. The IT folks will win and you will win, why that's a WIN, WIN

Mmmm...that only true if the tablet is secured by the IT department. Our IT policy does not allow any downloading of apps on our BBs, and I have been told that any tablet provided by the company would have a similar policy. Only approved apps could be downloaded by IT, and some of these apps (like Google Maps) need to be licensed and there is a monthly fee just to have them on your BB or PB. So there is zero chance that Android would be approved by IT. Zero. It has no business use.

So in the case of our company, your statement would not apply since our IT does not consider the PB secured unless they secure it themselves, basically rendering it useless.

I had a discussion with someone today who tried and returned a PlayBook because she was underwhelmed. I told her it will soon have an Android app player. She looked at me like I was speaking some sort of foreign language.

Playbook=Underwhelmed/Android=Foreign Language.

yep, makes sense. i'm impressed she even had the wherewithal to buy a playbook in the first place.

I bought the playbook strictly for its portability and power not to be overwhelmed.If I wanted to be blown away I could have stuck to my laptop.
That being said I may use my wifes laptop for backup on desktop manager and not replace my laptop when it goes.

Bring it on!! Summer's half over!!
BB Bold "Onyx" 9700
BB Playbook 32GB

wow!!! I think this virtual machine idea is really cool.
I'm a mac user for almost 8 years, but at work, I need windows to use my company's software,
so after some virtual machine software parallels came out, it really help me a lot.

I love my mac more, and can also enjoy the software i need on window!!

go RIM. Can't wait to see the day this Android app gets mature!!

I don't care what anyone says, apps running in an emulated environment will never function as well. Having Android is better that what RIMM has delivered so far, but even this is a leak.

RIMM should just deliver.

It's not really "emulation"; apparently the kernal runs Android bytecode pretty much natively.

I'm not nuts about Android in general, but I still think this is an important development; it's crucial for RIM to build a market and this broadens the appeal.

I think people need to set their sights a little higher than thinking the ability of QNX to run a VM stops at Android.

The cool part of the emulator for me is that it demonstrates the power of QNX. The bad thing is that it will not solve the lack of native apps to make the PlayBook successfull in the long run. OS/2 has been the better windows - but the lack of native apps killed that approach very soon. It will be easy for google to break that VM stuff if necessary. Just to keep it straight - Honycomb is NOT open source anymore. Remember the dispute with Google about 7" Honeycom tablets ? I wonder if they are really happy to see the playbook running it .... .

What does it matter to RIM what applications run on their devices? They are not a software company, they sell hardware and the services to manage them.

Just because some of you know OS/2 doesn't mean you're making an actual argument by dropping the name.

RIM should revamp QNX, Playbook with QNX is nothing more than a dummy tablet. Why dont pay some money to Google and change the OS to Android

The question was "What the Android App Player means for BlackBerry?"
The simple answer is that it means that the Playbook is saved....

There's no way the leaked software is the finished article.

RIM has already said that Android developers would need to repackage their apps for download via App World, rather than from the Android Marketplace.

Hard to see why that would be needed if Android ran natively on the Playbook.

RIM could release Android on the Playbook running under QNX but it would be at the loss of a fair amount of app revenue to their competitors.

Doesn't seem likely to me.

And by the way, Android doesn't come close to the quality of QNX.

RIM isn't about to spend millions of dollars buying QNX then throw away the investment by using a lesser operating system from a competitor.

it is a cool option to have. Give the playbook access to some apps we have to wait forever for or may never get so i think is it great.

RIM needs to hurry the hell up and do this!! Everybody else is looking cooler and more productive the apps in AppWorld suck in comparison to Android and iOS. Its almost emabarassing taking out my PB around iPad users!1 HURRY UP RIM!!!

It took me about 15 mins to install via the instructions in the forums. I have email on the playbook finally. Pretty embarrassing to have to go that route, but I'm no longer ashamed to show my playbook around now. "Look, it can do android" isn't that cool! Ugg.

Joseph, you have it wrong, you're perpetuating the wrong message!

Even if this is BB "coming to the mountain" don’t say that. BB PR machine shouldn't be leaking this willy nilly and hoping people see it as good. RIM has such bad spin right now they could release an app that cures cancer the headline would be "RIM’s disease eliminating app fails those with HIV/AIDS"

Left unattended and unaddressed this leak is RIM “admitting defeat” “going to android” “QNX unable to compete””uses an old version of Android not optimized for tablets.” etc. etc.
Released right this is “QNX is so powerful it can treat Android as a mere app and still run full powered QNX alongside” “Android in a walled off area protecting your data” “let’s users enjoy the simpler apps of android and BB’s super apps at the same time” “lets users create a separate google profile for general use and fun” etc., etc.

One does not need to look far to see how badly BB’s PR is. Last week the US government approves the Playbook as the only tablet secure enough for official use. What did a well-read tech website write: “Of course, those agencies will still need to make sure to supply a BlackBerry smartphone as well so folks can access some of that information -- although this may be one instance where that's considered to be more of a feature than an omission.”

Get on message BB, your best work will no longer sell itself!

It's entertaining to see a web site that takes the position that the Playbook actually matters. I love my BB, but have you guys not actually used the Playbook? I can think of exactly one reason to buy this product over an Ipad, and that would be the ability to connect to office email without the hassle of selling my IT dept. Slightly bigger screen for reading email is not exactly compelling though. Sorry guys, no offense intended, but every now and then one has to point out that the emporer is not wearing any clothes.

IPad is luggable, not moble. The playbook actually fits in an inside suit or jacket pocket, it's about as big as you can get and put it in a purse. The 7" form factor is emerging as the "the other size" for tablets, I would not be surprised to see an IPad Mini at some point.

Also Playbook is really a testbed for QNX. It should make the development and release of a QNX based phone easier. I actually love an android shell on a bb phone, with goggle voice integrated it would truly be like having 2 phones in one. With google voice integration it opens up the possibility of having a goog profile, a bb profile, etc.

I have not seen anyone propose this yet:

Android emulation will kill native development efforts for the Playbook if not for QNX as a whole. This will work against development work for the BBOS8 (8=QNX on BB Phone, go with me here.)

Why would the absolute army of developers writing for Android learn to code for QNX when they don't have to? Programming is about efficiency.

As a consumer, Android on QNX does get me a whole universe of apps, so that's good. I get Angry Birds. But as an investor in one PlayBook, the potential of more and improved apps for PBOS, native QNX development, is the right direction. This device has a lot of power, there is nothing lacking in the hardware specs, IMO. There is a lot of potential for PBOS, some of it realized.

Invite more devs to code for QNX.
Step up the (learn how to do?) marketing

Users will follow.