April 5, 2011

PlayBook details from BlackBerry Dev Day Toronto (video)

PlayBook details from BlackBerry Dev Day Toronto (video)

I was in attendance at the BlackBerry Dev Day in Toronto a few days back (31st March 2011). I was mostly interested in finding out more about the BlackBerry PlayBook from a developer’s perspective as I’ve been developing an app for it recently. Here are some notes I made regarding the PlayBook during the talk as well as a video of a live demonstration of the PlayBook’s prowess.

  • ‘Gold’ version of the PlayBook SDK will be released very close to the launch (19th April) and it will have substantially more new features. This makes sense, as the current SDK available to developers lacks some of the functionality that I occassionally see in offical PlayBook demo videos (e.g. the markers at the start and end of text selection) suggesting that they are holding some features back from developers until they are ready to release it (or run out of time and have to release it as is).
  • Ad Services and Payment Services for PlayBook developers will not be available for at launch in the SDKs, but will be added soon after. Payment Service will be there by summer.
  • Similarly, the Analytics service will be made available on the PlayBook some time after its launch. The service will work through WebTrends. This sounded like a very intrusive service for the users, but potentially great for the application developers. If the developer includes this service in the app, it can be switched on by default (without asking user’s permission) if the developer chooses to do so. The service will send data to WebTrends servers. The only way the user can switch this off is by setting the firewall settings on their device to block www.webtrends.com (not very user friendly). Later they said that the user will be notified through the app that the app is trying to connect to WebTrends and they can choose to block it from there, which is slightly more user friendly. However I’m not sure if they meant if the user will be specifically told that the app is trying to connect to WebTrends, or if the app is asking for general internet connectivity permission. Overall, there was a bit of conflicting information regarding this, and it sounded like a bit of a work in progress – I suspect they will modify things to make it easier for the user to manage this before officially making this service available.
  • There is no support for virtual currencies right now, but they are trying to implement it – as soon as they figure out how to deal with some unique accounting issues related to that.
  • All PlayBook apps submitted by 31st March, are likely to be reviewed by the 19th April launch date with 90-100% probability. The app review team is well-oiled and getting better at reviewing apps. I have to personally agree with this. Keeping track of app submissions and approval dates in the Developer Forum suggests that the team is operating much faster now than in the beginning.
  • Push doesn’t exist on PlayBook today, but will come later.
  • Native PlayBook clients for email, calendar, etc will come later. At launch these will only be accessible via the BlackBerry Bridge (which works through Bluetooth).
  • BBM is not in the PlayBook except for through BlackBerry Bridge (for now).
  • They suggested that it might be worthwhile to launch apps in non-North American markets first (e.g. Indonesia, Mexico/Spain) to get some feedback and revenue and then launch in the larger North American market. They also said its worthwhile offering translations into other languages (particularly Bahasa and Spanish).

Here is a video of RIM’s Director of Developer Relations, Mike KIrkup, demoing the PlayBook to an impressed and applauding crowd.

Interesting parts are at:

  • 0:57, when he demonstrates playing an HD video over HDMI with Need for Speed still running in the background (albeit in a paused state).
  • 3:32: running camera and playing Need for Speed at the same time. Need for Speed is controlled by the accelerometer and you can see the camera angles changing in the live thumbnail view as well as the car turning in that direction in the Need for Speed live thumbnail view simultaneously.
  • 5:24: Over The Air (OTA) update mechanism. The device, when first shipped, will ask the users to perform an OTA update before they can start using it.

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