RIM's announcement yesterday regarding the expansion of the application ecosystem for the BlackBerry PlayBook brought with it the big news that Android Apps (specifically Android 2.3 apps for the time being) will be supported on the BlackBerry PlayBook. This doesn't mean that RIM is working with Google to bring Android marketplace to BlackBerry, but rather that developers who have made Android apps can sign up as BlackBerry App World developers (which is now free of charge) and distribute their apps to BlackBerry PlayBook owners via App World. Developers will have to repackage, code sign and submit their Android apps to BlackBerry App World, but the process should be pretty simple for any current Android app developer should they choose to. These android apps will then run on the BlackBerry PlayBook via an "App Player" in a "sandboxed" environment on the PlayBook. This is the same process that will also allow current BlackBerry Smartphone java apps to run on the PlayBook. The Android App Player will be demoed at BlackBerry World in May, and will become available this summer to PlayBook owners - so it won't be there on the April 19th launch date.
Because these Android Apps and BlackBerry Smartphone apps will be running in a sandboxed environment, to use RIM's vocabulary we can likely expect the experience to be more along the lines of simple open and use "apps" rather than the deeply integrated "super apps" that RIM often likes to talk about. The most compelling (deeply integrated and high performing) apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook are likely going to be built with the newly announced native SDK, but this announcement of Android app support definitely helps to drive a best of both worlds message to potential tablet consumers. If you buy a BlackBerry that support Android Apps, you won't feel like you're missing out on anything, which is one of RIM's current challenges in the marketplace. Of course the announcement is only the start -- Android developers will have to make the decision to want to put their apps on the PlayBook and take the time to go through the process -- so whether we ultimately have 10,000, 50,000 or 200,000+ Android apps available via App World will only be known in time.
Following the announcement and tuning into RIM's Earnings Call where Co-CEO Jim Balsillie commented on the support of Android apps (for a breakdown of his commentary go here), I spent hours last night browsing the web to see everybody's opinions on the matter. As might be expected, they were quite mixed. Many in favor of the idea cited that it really showcases how powerful the platform is, that it allows RIM to now offer the best of both worlds, that it differentiates RIM from everybody else and that it should make anybody considering an Android tablet look much longer and harder at BlackBerry. Some against the idea thought it could stifle native app development for the BlackBerry PlayBook (meaning we'll see more so-so apps and not enough awesome apps), and that it just complicates things for RIM. With QNX ultimately becoming the future of BlackBerry Smartphones as well, the conversation extends beyond phones as well (Balsillie did say that QNX-based "super phones" will be hitting the BlackBerry portfolio in calendar 2012).
So where do you weigh in on the debate? Yes? No? Not sure? Let us know your thoughts on the poll above, and give us your reasoning in the comments below. One thing is for sure... things are getting REALLY EXCITING AND INTERESTING again in the BlackBerry space.
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