RIM announces Java and Android runtimes for the Playbook, beta of native SDK

RIM has announced several new options for developing apps for its PlayBook tablet.

RIM will launch two optional “app players” that provide an application run-time environment for BlackBerry Java® apps and Android v2.3 apps. These new app players will allow users to download BlackBerry Java apps and Android apps from BlackBerry App World and run them on their BlackBerry PlayBook.

In addition, RIM will shortly release the native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook enabling C/C++ application development on the BlackBerry® Tablet OS. For game-specific developers, RIM is also announcing that it has gained support from two leading game development tooling companies, allowing developers to use the cross-platform game engines from Ideaworks Labs and Unity Technologies to bring their games to the BlackBerry PlayBook.

It sounds as if the Android runtime will not be perfectly compatible with real Android:

Developers currently building for the BlackBerry or Android platforms will be able to quickly and easily port their apps to run on the BlackBerry Tablet OS thanks to a high degree of API compatibility.

Nevertheless, this will be an attractive route for Android developers looking for a quick way to port to the Blackberry.

The native SDK is currently in “limited alpha release” but RIM is promising an open beta for this summer.

The BlackBerry Tablet OS NDK will allow developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native C/C++ applications with industry standard GNU toolchains. Developers can create advanced 2D and 3D applications and special effects by leveraging programmable shaders available in hardware-accelerated OpenGL ES 2.0.

The deal with Unity is important too. Unity is an increasingly popular toolkit for game development and adding the Blackberry to the list of supported platforms will boost its appeal. Ideaworks Labs makes the Airplay SDK, a cross-platform toolkit which already supports Apple iOS, Android, Symbian, Samsung Bada, HP webOS and Windows Mobile.

Note that the primary SDK for the Playbook has until now been Adobe AIR; and since the UI itself uses the Flash runtime this likely still makes sense for many applications.

RIM is doing a good job of opening up its platform. It is an interesting contrast to Microsoft’s “Silverlight, XNA or nothing” approach for Windows Phone.

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