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An Exploration of BlackBerry 10's Programming API

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the it's-dangerous-to-go-alone,-take-this dept.

Blackberry 100

Nerval's Lobster writes "BlackBerry 10 is completely different from previous BlackBerry operating systems — with good reason. Its core assets come from a company named QNX, which Research In Motion acquired in 2010. Blackberry 10 features include 'live tiles' that dynamically refresh with new information, as well as a revamped keyboard and security upgrades. But what really makes or breaks a phone is the quality (and quantity) of its third-party apps. Jeff Cogswell pokes through the BlackBerry 10 programming API in a quest to see what app developers can do with the platform, and how it compares on that front to Apple iOS and Google Android. His conclusion? Although some of the underlying components are showing their age, BlackBerry has 'spent a lot of time building up a foundation for a good development community.' He also goes over BlackBerry 10's viability for porting apps and building games. But will developers actually work with a platform with such low market-share?"

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Crack (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602531)

I bet all 3 users and 2 developers are excited already.

Re:Crack (3, Insightful)

Unknown1337 (2697703) | about a year ago | (#43602763)

Saying it, doesn't make it true. The numbers were well over a million z10 sold in North America alone. The q10 is expected to do even better.

Re:Crack (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#43602863)

did you know that the US and Canadian versions of the Z10 are different? In the US it's the zee 10 and in Canada it's the zed 10. Amazing!

Re:Crack (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43606209)

The zed 10's dead baby, the zed 10's dead.

Re:Crack (1)

Mente (219525) | about a year ago | (#43603009)

In a month and a half in the US and 5 months in Canada. The iPhone 4S did that in its first day and the iPhone 5 did 2 million its first day.

The Q10 will be the true metric though. There are a ton of people out that that have been waiting 2-3 years for the next physical keyboard phone. Q2 should be a good one for BB. However, once that initial flood comes through...

Re:Crack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603553)

A nearby McDonald's franchise sells a lot more hamburgers than my favorite sit-down beef restaurant, but I'd be willing to bet the sit-down is just as if not more profitable than that franchise.

Volume is not everything, especially out of the gate. The Z10 is an incredible piece of technology that you have to use to appreciate. They will do fine with it, but it might take some time.

Re:Crack (1)

Mente (219525) | about a year ago | (#43604025)

Correct, volume isn't always everything. However, that is only the case when there are large differences in profit margin. In this case, there isn't much difference. The Z10 (which I've used a little bit, not every day) is an average device these days with some neat features. Nothing earth shattering. Its as average as an iPhone or any number of Android devices. The sales however, have been disappointing. The largest factor, is that without any large distinguishing feature, most people have already moved on from Blackberry to other smart devices.
However, as I said above, its all about the Q10 for Blackberry. It has a much higher profit margin, and they will sell a ton. There are plenty of people out there just waiting for their "real" keyboard. With very little competition in that market, and a loyal fanbase in that market, they should do well. In the first quarter. They will probably even pull a million or so iPhone/Android users back with the physical keyboard. However, when you consider that Apple is averaging about 30 million units a QUARTER over the last two years or so, that doesn't really make a dent in market share. The Q10 will get most of its sales from people that have waited 2-3 years for the next generation Blackberry, that didn't migrate away to touch platforms. Blackberry's own estimates are that they will sell multiple 10's of millions of Q10's. Apple does that every quarter. Quarter after quarter. They have such a huge installed base, most of their sales at this point are people aging off of their iPhone 3gs/iPhone4.

Re:Crack (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43607209)

Blackberry doesn't have idiotic users waiting in line, throwing their old phones in the garbage just to have the new shiny each year because of some software based feature (that's been available on it's own store for every single one of their devices but apparently it's just too difficult to update and so it's arbitrarily restricted to the last 1 or 2 generations of devices.

Re:Crack (2)

notknown86 (1190215) | about a year ago | (#43603645)

Sold one million to one customer alone in North America, that should be.

Given that no-one is admitting to that purchase, is it beyond the realm of belief that they brought those themselves?

Re:Crack (1)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year ago | (#43604413)

A MILLION? Really? With LASERS?!?!

Re:Crack (1)

mcmaddog (732436) | about a year ago | (#43604679)

Sold or Shipped? Either are good news for Blackberry (at least in the short term) but developers care more about the actual sales.

Re:Crack (1)

gigaherz (2653757) | about a year ago | (#43607085)

Well, people develop for Windows Phone, and WE are not that many, either ;P

Re:Crack (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | about a year ago | (#43607791)

I can only speak for myself here. I ported my (fairly successful) app to Windows Phone. My reasoning was that MS was big enough, and Nokia committed enough that they would do whatever it takes to make WP work.

It was a very bad use of my time, I get a bit of cash from WP, but it is a rounding error compared to iOS, or even Android.

It may be that Windows and Nokia will do better in the future, but for now, it is an unrewarding platform.

Blackberry have spent a bunch of time trying to convince me to transfer my Android builds over to their platform, but even spending a day or two to make the necessary tweaks feels like a bad investment.

Re:Crack (1)

dacaldar (614951) | about a year ago | (#43631027)

Really? Do the math. How many BlackBerry users would you have to sell the app to in order to make enough money that those one or two days are worth your time. I don't know your app or its price, but surely a few hundred would easily make it worthwhile.

There are 80 million BlackBerry users and growing. You don't think you can sell even a few hundred copies out of 80 million users? Even if you make 10x more money on other platforms, it never hurts to add an extra few % to your bottom line.

Garbage. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602547)

I'm not interested in learning yet another API. Keep it.

Re:Garbage. (4, Interesting)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | about a year ago | (#43602571)

This is exactly the reason I haven't learned Android development. Why have me learn new APIs for old things? Give me the same APIs that I'm used to on the desktop to the extent that these are compatible with the mobile environment, and then I'll learn the APIs that are specific to the niche I'm developing for. And that's exactly what BlackBerry has done.

Re:Garbage. (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43602593)

Being consistent with the API is more or less meaningless if you've only got a few dozen users.

Re:Garbage. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602707)

Having a few thousand users is meaningless if they don't pay for you using the API. Blackberry users have consistently shown they have money and are willing to pay for quality apps and games.

Re:Garbage. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43602761)

A few thousand? Developers don't seem to be having any trouble making money on Android and iOS even with free games. And the good games tend to have a much larger number of people playing them.

Sure it isn't like the early days of the platforms where it was basically just printing money, but there's still plenty of money to be had if you're providing something that people want.

Re:Garbage. (2, Insightful)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#43602993)

It's funny, a study last year from Evans Data Corp (surprisingly?) showed that BB developers earned significantly more than their iOS and Android counterparts -- with a full 13% netting over 100k.

To your comment, a consistent complaint from Android developers is how difficult it is to make money on the platform. You can see this reflected in the results of the earlier mentioned study.

For the big-name players, BB might not be as attractive. For small and medium sized shops, however, targeting BB10 is clearly a smart move.

Re:Garbage. (2, Informative)

crazycheetah (1416001) | about a year ago | (#43603313)

Source Link for you [yahoo.com]

Same study also found that "Android Market" was the most used, so it's attractive for volume (once your app is actually visible on the play store--as noted in the link I provided, that's the largest complaint about it).

Re:Garbage. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43603431)

Erm... That says the study polled 400 commerical developers. In a random sample of commercial developers I'd be surprised to find a more than 1 Blackberry developer. Lets be generous and say there were 8. What significance then is "13% earn over $100,000? It means one developer earned over $100,000. Statistical significance? None.

Now, was it one of these surveys where they get a list of telephone numbers, and ring them up and ask if they'll cooperate with a survey? Or was it one of those ones where you get a modal pop-up on a web page, before you can access some article? Or was it one of those warez download pages where you have to fill out a survey before you can download the warez?

Are we really just believing any old nonsense that a company said were results of a survey?

Re:Garbage. (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | about a year ago | (#43603529)

I thought some of the same things. I haven't bothered to sign up with EDC to see the details, so I'm not personally sure at all about the details of the study. I just thought I would at least provide a source for the data narcc posted.

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604357)

Anything coming from "narcc" is suspect. He's been the world's biggest shill/fanboy for RIM and BB for years here on slashdot. Look up his posting history, it's comical. He has no ability to be even slightly objective about the topic, sincerely believes RIM has always been the best in every possible way, and harbors deep resentments about how iOS and Android ate RIM's lunch.

Even before RIM bought QNX in a last ditch attempt to stay relevant in the mobile OS wars, narcc believed they were actually superior in every possible way. He went way beyond merely regurgitating the company lines about physical keyboards and BB secure enterprise email being THE killer features which would ensure RIM would always stay on top. He also kept claiming that BB's UI was superior, the OS platform was better, etc., even while it was obvious to everyone else in the world that BB was losing because it was hopelessly behind on those fronts.

Post-QNX, narcc's tune hasn't really changed. They lost before QNX because (insert long list of whines about supposedly unfair reasons). With QNX they'll crush the evil competition because (insert long list of bogus reasons why QNX is superior in every possible way). He doesn't appear to realize there's no special sauce in QNX -- for mobile purposes, it's Yet Another POSIX-ish OS With A Homegrown GUI, much like iOS and Android.

So what I'm saying is that odds are good this survey was cherry-picked because it says what narcc wants to hear. And he's probably ignoring flaws in his interpretation. E.g., it wouldn't be surprising at all if there actually are some developers making money writing apps for BB. After all, there's still millions of users, many of whom are residual captive enterprise customers (deep pocket customers who'll pay for custom business apps equals guaranteed profitability so long as you're competent). There's sure to be some money out there. The question is, is there enough money for a lot more developers to step in and also make money? And the answer is probably "No", or they would be doing so already.

Re:Garbage. (1)

crazycheetah (1416001) | about a year ago | (#43603669)

Also, that article is from September, 2011... more than a year and a half ago. So how valid is that still today? I didn't find a nice chart for BlackBerry's market share in a quick Google search, and I would think that would be a relevant thing to look at in this. I did find that it was dropping after this article, and reached its lowest in February of this year. If BlackBerry's market share kept decreasing since then, however, it would be a safe hypothesis that app developers probably weren't making as much money on BlackBerry any more either. (I did see that BlackBerry's market share increased in April 2013 now, to 1.51% ... there is some promise there still)

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603437)

Unless only large companies made lots of money. Averages don't show the whole picture.

Re:Garbage. (1)

archen (447353) | about a year ago | (#43602735)

Depends on how much those users pay you.

Re:Garbage. (1)

TrollstonButtersbean (2890693) | about a year ago | (#43602907)

Surely you jest ... I'm getting a Blackberry for the games and the Facebook integration.

Re:Garbage. (2)

DogDude (805747) | about a year ago | (#43603425)

Being consistent with the API is more or less meaningless if you've only got a few dozen users.

It depends on who those users are. Believe it or not, not every "app" developer is trying to create some consumer-level app that reaches millions and millions of people. I own plenty of software from companies that may have only a few hundred customers, but they're doing just fine. Not every successful business has to cater to all people In fact, some of the most profitable businesses I know don't cater to all people.

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602617)

Different devices have different capabilities and limitations, therefore it is only natural that to obtain the maximum benefit from a platform you need an API for it.

Re:Garbage. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602651)

You only have yourselves to blame. Software copyrights? OK, new API for every single new device. Enjoy your greed.

Re:Garbage. (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about a year ago | (#43602653)

This is exactly the reason I haven't learned Android development. Why have me learn new APIs for old things? Give me the same APIs that I'm used to on the desktop to the extent that these are compatible with the mobile environment, and then I'll learn the APIs that are specific to the niche I'm developing for. And that's exactly what BlackBerry has done.

That depends entirely on what "the same APIs I'm used to on the desktop" means.

iOS includes large chunks of the Mac APIs, making it a great fit for Mac developers. Even if you aren't a Mac developer, you get all the C/C++ chunks. I'm pretty sure there is even a build of Qt for iOS. And if you're a Java developer? Blackberry might as well be another planet compared to Android.

So again, your definition of "new" API varies depending on where you are coming from.

Re:Garbage. (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | about a year ago | (#43602845)

your definition of "new" API varies depending on where you are coming from.

Yes, of course. I think iOS is good in this respect.

Android, no. Java isn't the native API for anything, and Android's flavor of Java isn't the same as the other flavors of Java. Having said that, it's obviously a viable platform.

Most other smartphone OS announcements start out by saying "you will develop in HTML and JavaScript", and at that point I stop listening to anything else they have to say. While these APIs are universal, they really aren't good for developing applications in.

Re:Garbage. (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | about a year ago | (#43603027)

Care to name a "universal" API that is good for developing applications in? Something tells me you're fairly young and don't have a strong understanding of lower level systems. Different devices/OSes/systems are different and hence programming them is different.

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603335)

c libs and crt.

Extra text to fool the filtre.

Re:Garbage. (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | about a year ago | (#43603453)

The C standard library is insufficient for writing real user level applications. It is more for low level applications, systems programming, or simple non-graphical applications. Have fun with your CLI smartphone.

If the platform provides additional C libraries to interface with their device you have already lost the "universal" part of the requirement.

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604403)

Ye gods, where do I buy a CLI smartphone? Even better would be a CLI smartphone with one bigass beautiful clicky button and a Morse code input method. Sign me up. /offmylawn

Re: Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43606589)

Flash and java ;)

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603589)

>>> "you will develop in HTML and JavaScript",

Yes, but did you know that the BlackBerry 10 Browser (developed my the Torch Mobile team), was built entirely in HTML5/WebWorks? It handles Flash with aplomb, and scores a 485 + 11 Bonus points on html5test.com.

To say "While these APIs are universal, they really aren't good for developing applications in", doesn't mean they cannot be fully utilized and extended to its maximums when put in the hands of the right programmers.

Re:Garbage. (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about a year ago | (#43603843)

Android, no. Java isn't the native API for anything, and Android's flavor of Java isn't the same as the other flavors of Java. Having said that, it's obviously a viable platform.

True, but if you're a Java developer, what's going to look more familiar: Blackberry's barely OOP C, or Android's Java-like API?

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602913)

The Fine Article make is sound like anyone using C is a dinosaur not realizing that
most things he/she touches have strong roots in C. That's like saying attractive women
are old school because they've been around for so long, but at the end of the day,
olde school really is the best way to go because it's reliable and works.

Re:Garbage. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43603401)

This is exactly the reason I haven't learned Android development. Why have me learn new APIs for old things? Give me the same APIs that I'm used to on the desktop to the extent that these are compatible with the mobile environment, and then I'll learn the APIs that are specific to the niche I'm developing for. And that's exactly what BlackBerry has done.

Yeah, it's pretty ridiculous that in this day and age cross platform software developers like myself have to create an OS Abstraction Layer to get their stuff to port programs. I mean, OS's are supposed to BE the Abstraction Layer. Ugh. However, in most cases (Linux and Unix being exceptions via POSIX), the proprietary vendor thinks its in their best interest to create incompatible APIs and leverage vendor lock-in. Sometimes it's just out of sheer ignorance though, other times malice.

Re:Garbage. (2, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43602681)

My opinion is like this, but less antagonistic. Developers go to three places as far as APIs are concerned:
#1. Where the money is. Sorry blackberry you missed that train. iOS or android is going to be far better in that regard.
#2. Where it's fun. Something about business oriented phone software doesn't call me in that regard.
#3. Where it's really, really, really easy to whip out applications. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Re:Garbage. (1)

TrollstonButtersbean (2890693) | about a year ago | (#43602959)

But the Blackberry is slightly heavier so if you set it on some papers, the wind can't blow them away as easily.

Plus the phone itself is more serious about business and frowns upon distractions.

Re:Garbage. (2)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | about a year ago | (#43603571)

Someone mentioned this above, but part of the problem with assuming BB missed out on #1 is in assuming that there's only money in greater market share. Remember that Blackberry's niche is more business than consumer. If someone can come up with an app that's attractive to business they can charge more, making up for the lack of market share.

It's similar to a discussion that cropped up the other week about the cost of medical software. It can often cost 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars because of a small, professional customer base.

Basically, just because you can't make money selling .99 cent games in the BB app store because of lack of market share, doesn't mean you can't make money on a $20+ app that's attractive to businesses who tend to provide employees with Blackberries.

As to what that app is, or even if it exists, I don't know. If I did I wouldn't be wasting my time commenting here.

Re:Garbage. (3, Insightful)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#43603777)

It's pretty hard to make money selling $0.99 games on Android too when you're up against hundreds of other games being released per day.

Most of those games are crap, or fun but unpolished hobby projects, but some of them are serious and polished with hundreds if not thousands of man-hours of development gone into them. I suspect few of them come close to recouping their team's time investments even when you consider that many of the teams are working out of India and other countries with similar income levels. There are plenty of fun, quality games with fewer than 100,000 downloads of the free version and fewer than 1000 purchases of the paid version, which means the devs can't have made much more than $2000 on the market, less when you subtract Google's cut and even less when you subtract taxes. A team of, say, three Indians can't live six months on that.

Developing a game is a long shot on any platform unless you're a studio with a proven team of good developers and designers and marketers.

Re:Garbage. (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year ago | (#43604069)

My opinion is like this, but less antagonistic. Developers go to three places as far as APIs are concerned:
#1. Where the money is. Sorry blackberry you missed that train. iOS or android is going to be far better in that regard.

And surprisingly you (and most everybody else) would be wrong [yahoo.com]

#2. Where it's fun. Something about business oriented phone software doesn't call me in that regard.
#3. Where it's really, really, really easy to whip out applications. Maybe, but I doubt it.

If you know C, C++, QT, HTML5, [html5test.com] Adobe AIR, or JAVA you can code for BB 10. [blackberry.com] If you don't want to code for BB 10 specifically but you already publish apps on Android it doesn't get much easier than uploading an APK [unker.net] (yes there are limitations)

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43606263)

With their announced support for Android and iOS Qt is definitely looking sexy. Plus, Qt Creator is really good these days.

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604137)

#3. Where it's really, really, really easy to whip out applications. Maybe, but I doubt it.

That sounds like the basis for BlackBerry's "Bring What You've Got" strategy:

https://developer.blackberry.com/develop/platform_choice/index.html

As an Android developer, you have a couple of tools you can use to help you convert your apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook OS or BlackBerry 10 OS. You can use these tools to help verify that your app is compatible with the BlackBerry platform, repackage your app as a compatible BAR file, and sign your app so that it can be distributed through the BlackBerry World storefront.

Re:Garbage. (1)

forkazoo (138186) | about a year ago | (#43604891)

I agree with your point, but would perhaps add a few extra bullet points.

#4. Where they already are. Tons of young coders started writing software for whatever type of computer was available in the living room rather than any rational assesment of which platform had the best dev tools. Tons of people will be handed blackberries by their corporate overlords, and have an itch to scratch. Those people already have full time jobs, so they won't be as prolific as full time mobile developers, but a lot of useful things have been generated by soembody who just wanted to scratch an itch.

#5. Where the competition is light. If the BB10 market turns out to be 1/10 the size of the iOS market, but has less than 1/10 of the developer focus, there may still be money to be made in that market.

#6. Where there are users. A couple of whiny users asking for their platform to be supported is sometimes enough to justify developer time. Especially for things like messaging applications, you want to be everywhere so that all the friends of your potential customer will also be able to get the app and interact with them. I buy multiplayer video games on things like Steam primarily because they support cross platform multiplayer. They don't have to be that great of games, as long as I know my couple of friends who have only OS-X will be able to play with the group.

These may all be relatively small factors for BB10, but it isn't quite dead yet. Just sort of pining for the fjords a bit...

Re:Garbage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43609087)

#5. Where the competition is light. If the BB10 market turns out to be 1/10 the size of the iOS market, but has less than 1/10 of the developer focus, there may still be money to be made in that market

There are developers that are making money on Nokia's platforms (Symbian & Windows) too. The ones that focus on just iOS and Android are potentially missing out on being one of the big fish in a smaller pond.

bad_management() (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602555)

Is the API that includes bad_management() public or private? Either way the return value is doomed

Re:bad_management() (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43602703)

Bad management is always protected. You can get at bad management when you inherit from Bad Management.

Re:bad_management() (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43602835)

. . . if only there was a way to deprecate it . . .

Anagrams for Nerval's Lobster (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602625)

Braver Sells Not
Braveness Troll

Pretty sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602737)

"Once installed, you get a version of Eclipse that’s customized for BlackBerry 10 development. Eclipse is re-branded as QNX Momentics IDE, and it has the QNX logo on the front screen."

Yes, the IDE is based on Eclipse CDT, which was originally contributed by.. wait for it... QNX. Nice try at making it sound like they were just 'rebranding' Eclipse. The rest sounds is one petty gripe after another, e.g. complaining wording in the installer, or about the how samples are written in C, instead of C++, etc. Pathetic.

So where is the customer demand? (3, Informative)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#43602757)

If BB pitch is to corporate clients (still) - how do they plan to attract all these devs who certainly don't care about the enterprise and much, much smaller target market.

Our mobile app, we have built native for Android and iOS. We've had a grand total of one person ask for BB and one ask for WP8. We simply have no interest in investing the money to build for something no one cares about.

Re:So where is the customer demand? (1)

TrollstonButtersbean (2890693) | about a year ago | (#43603013)

I thought in the past, Blackberry's primary market was government and corporate contracts. They don't need the smaller market, they just need to persuade gray-haired government officials to sign some papers in a meeting or grease some politicians.

Re:So where is the customer demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603727)

Honestly I think it's a slightly disheartened user base. As of late, everyone either says they wont, or said they will so many times and still didnt deliver that the user base just doesnt bother anymore. I'd love to see every app come accross. I'm glad they made the android runtime part of the os so it's easier for developers to get something on the platform that doesnt need to be developed from the ground up. But until bb10 has a serious market share in the US market, I dont see a lot of apps making it to blackberry.

Half of the people that cry about the apps just want them to say that theyre there, not to actually pay for the service. Which only adds to the problem.

Re:So where is the customer demand? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#43604261)

If BB pitch is to corporate clients (still) - how do they plan to attract all these devs who certainly don't care about the enterprise and much, much smaller target market.

As I understand it, a large fraction of Android apps can be ported over in binary form, so even end-users can do so.

Re:So where is the customer demand? (1)

Moochman (54872) | about a year ago | (#43604869)

Not exactly. End users can't do it, but parent apathetic developer can indeed very easily submit their Android app with little to no modification to be sold on the BB store.

Re:So where is the customer demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43607215)

Actually, the end user can. It does require you to run a "converter" program from APK to BAR and then sideload, but it's doable.

Really want this to suceed (4, Insightful)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | about a year ago | (#43602765)

I really want this to succeed. First of all, QNX is awesome. I had the pleasure of working with it back in the day when they had the 1.44M demo disk [toastytech.com] (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_VlI6IBEJ0 has a video). At a time when GNU/Linux was working on getting POSIX-compliant and X was clunky and required some expertise to set up, QNX offered an OS with POSIX-compliance, real-time capabilities, a package manager, a GUI that worked out of the box, and managed to produce a 1.44M bootable diskette that showed off the OS with GUI and web browser.

Secondly, I want my software to be efficient. I'm sure you can do great things with J2ME, Dalvik, or even HTHL and JavaScript. But if you want the best performance or resources are at a premium (hello, battery-powered mobile devices!), you can do better by being closer to the metal. And we have APIs and programming languages that allow us to program closer to the metal. BlackBerry allows us to use those APIs and languages. The author of TFA makes fun of the BlackBerry APIs being in C. I see that as an advantage. You can easily build abstractions on top of low-level APIs. Getting efficiency back once it's been lost in someone's abstraction layer isn't as easy.

So, while it seems popular to make fun of BlackBerry these days, I really want them to succeed. I think they've made a great product that deserves our consideration. Of course, they have low market share and strong competitors - but then again, so did Apple when they launched the iPhone, and Google when they launched Android.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

Qwavel (733416) | about a year ago | (#43602995)

Yes, we all want our mobile apps to be efficient, but please don't lump Davlik in with javascript. I concede that Java/Davlik are not quite as efficient as native code, but running an Android app on your phone is not in the same league of inefficiency as using a web app.

While I admire Google's continued to push to improve and promote the web, their continued insistence that web apps are the future even for mobile - in spite of Android doing so well - seems crazy to me.

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603469)

In the grand scheme of things, Javascript JITers can get nearly as close to C performance as Java JITers for most of the ad hoc code that app developers write. All the performance critical stuff is implemented in C or (for graphics) assembly, anyhow, and provided as an API.

The iPhone did it right with compiled, native apps. Using Java is a pointless middle-ground.

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604027)

In the grand scheme of things, Javascript JITers can get nearly as close to C performance as Java JITers for most of the ad hoc code that app developers write. All the performance critical stuff is implemented in C or (for graphics) assembly, anyhow, and provided as an API.

The iPhone did it right with compiled, native apps. Using Java is a pointless middle-ground.

O.o

At first, you pretty much describe Android, except Dalvik (which does JIT compilation on all of the code, getting pretty close to if not on par with C in the end). But then you say that it's bad, because it's "a pointless middle-ground."

Couple of things:

1. Several Android apps that need performance or efficiency to a degree that it really matters will use C for at least those parts. Only thing is, they then have to do some work because of #2.

2. Android's using Dalvik is not a pointless middle-ground at all. It's built so that the apps coded for Dalvik can run on as many Android devices as possible with the fewest modifications or re-compilations possible. Android was never meant to run on just one set of hardware like iOS (even with different versions of the iPhone hardware and the iPad now, it's still significantly less hardware than Android is meant to be able to run on). In that regard, Dalvik is great. You don't have to have your developers re-compile their code for every new hardware setup that you never took into account. iOS doesn't have to worry about that, because they keep their hardware in line to not cause the issue. Android was always open to deal with that issue if an OEM wanted to put it on a new system. In this way, we have x86 phones that can run the same apps as an ARM phone, without the developer having to recompile the whole damned thing for the new hardware. Dalvik is essential for this, if nothing else, and this is essential to Android. So no, it's not a pointless middle-ground. It's a very intentional, thought out middle-ground with a very specific point.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

OdinOdin_ (266277) | about a year ago | (#43613163)

This is true on the desktop with big fat caches and CPU cycles to burn. But JIT on mobile has a long way to go yet. Most things on mobile run interpreted mode only, maybe you can not tell the difference? because it is fast enough.

Qt (one of the APIs of the BB10 platform) does do well to make C++ difficult to write code that crashes easily.

Re:Really want this to suceed (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43603005)

First of all, QNX is awesome.

It is. It's a real-time microkernel based OS. The kernel is about 60K bytes. All it does is manage memory, timers, and message passing. Everything else is in user space. There is a hard upper bound on interrupt lockout time, and it's around a microsecond.

This is what you want to control complex real-time systems that need tight coordination. All the Boston Dynamics robots, BigDog, ATLAS, etc. run QNX. The servo loops are running at 1KHz on those robots. Tight real-time coordination of all those complex motions requires a true real-time OS. (The robots that run ROS/Linux are more sluggish.)

But, after totally botched marketing, the death of the main designer, two sales of the company (to Harmon and then RIM), and transitions from closed source to open source to closed source to open source to closed source again, QNX, the company, has blown it.

None of this has any bearing on smartphone sales. They're not a hard real time problem. You could write the entire UI in HTML/CSS/Javascript and it would work fine on current processors.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#43603415)

That's what I was thinking. I was a sysadmin at a small EE firm building testing stations. All the CNC systems we built that had to be extremely precise and relied on the high end microcontrollers and actuators invariably ran QNX. The systems that could be cheaper and less robust overall tended to run National Instruments controllers with LabView applications on Windows XP, which were cheaper both to develop and to deploy.

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603503)

Not only that, but it's POSIX certified, which means its actually practical to use.

On paper and in source code QNX is amazing. In reality people don't care about correctness or elegance, at least not the developers you have to entice to build momentum and mindshare for your platform.

Perhaps they should run a guerilla marketing campaign by hiring people to lurk on StackExchange and promote their products by posting QNX-based answers and solutions.

Re:Really want this to suceed (3, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about a year ago | (#43605121)

On paper and in source code QNX is amazing.

In reality it was a little "meh". RTOSes are amazing when you need them, but those low latencies come at a cost of lower throughput and higher kernel overhead. Basically, context switch counts go through the roof anytime anything interesting at all is going on. The gist of it is that you can't write a big, sophisticated interrupt handler; you have to break it up into tiny evented pieces that can return before the hard deadline expires. That has lots of design implications.

Contrast with an end user OS where the price of too much latency is that screen refreshes aren't as smooth as they could be. The kernel can wave that away on modern hardware by making timeslices sufficiently small that no app gets to use so much CPU that others are greatly affected.

I have nothing against QNX! It's a great OS for its niche. I have zero desire to use it as a client OS, though, because its advantages aren't significant enough in that problem space to outweight its considerable disadvantages.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43606811)

The gist of it is that you can't write a big, sophisticated interrupt handler; you have to break it up into tiny evented pieces that can return before the hard deadline expires. That has lots of design implications.

You're not supposed to do much in a QNX interrupt handler except activate a thread to handle the event. I've written hot-plugging support for FireWire and USB devices, which is much easier to do when it's done in a user process.

You take about a 10%-15% performance hit for extra context switches and message passing. But it's all constant-time overhead. You don't have all those things that cause monolithic kernels to stall.

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43614311)

The gist of it is that you can't write a big, sophisticated interrupt handler; you have to break it up into tiny evented pieces that can return before the hard deadline expires. That has lots of design implications.

Eh, it's not that big a deal. Even non-realtime operating systems split interrupt handlers like this. Linux does; if a handler takes significant time to process an interrupt, you're supposed to break it into a "top half" and a "bottom half". One half (the top I think?) responds to the actual hardware interrupt, does the minimal amount of work needed to prep the hardware for the next interrupt, and queues the real work for the bottom half to get around to later. (Which happens when the scheduler gives the bottom half's kernel thread a timeslice. I believe that thread can be preempted, so it can take as long as it wants provided it keeps up with the top half.)

I'm pretty sure Darwin (the OS X / iOS kernel) does something similar too. Windows Phone (aka WinNT) might too, but I don't know one way or the other. So at least 2 of 3 major competitors to BB10/QNX have similar interrupt handler overhead.

The only real difference is that QNX has hard latency deadlines. But those might be enforced merely by construction (e.g. carefully counting cycles in the primary and secondary interrupt handler code), in which case it's a pain for anyone writing device drivers but not likely to cause real performance issues in userspace.

Contrast with an end user OS where the price of too much latency is that screen refreshes aren't as smooth as they could be.

I'd be very surprised if QNX/BB10 even attempts to provide latency bounds on userland APIs which draw to the screen. That's a very different problem than bounding interrupt latency. Also, it would be staggeringly difficult to try to bound the latency of a call like glDrawArrays().

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

John Allsup (987) | about a year ago | (#43608675)

Is it still possible to get a look at QNX source at all??

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43603765)

You could write the entire UI in HTML/CSS/Javascript and it would work fine on current processors.

Just after I wrote that, it's demoed. [slashdot.org]

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43604373)

Yeah, QNX really blew it by having Dan Hilbebrand die from brain cancer 15years ago. If only there was an example of another company founder in the industry blowing it by dying from cancer..

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603081)

I really want this to succeed. First of all, QNX is awesome.

I have fond memories of hacking my 3Com Ergo Audrey - that was a fun little machine! My first exposure to QNX.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43604451)

Of course, they have low market share and strong competitors - but then again, so did Apple when they launched the iPhone, and Google when they launched Android.

Apple and Google both succeeded for different reasons. Apple succeeded because they introduced a revolutionary device. When everybody else was moving to full QWERTY keyboards and sliding form factors, Apple went with a single, simple, touch screen. They effectively created a completely new segment of the phone market for themselves. That, coupled with Jobs' reality distortion field, launched the iPhone into history.

Google saw Apple's stragglehold of this new market, and decided they wanted a piece of that market. But instead of competing directly by putting out their own phone, they wrote the software and gave it away to Apple's existing competitors. They figured the cream would rise to the top, which it has. They basically pulled a Microsoft on Apple.

Blackberry is not doing either. They are not pioneering a new cell phone market segment. They are not jumping onto a competition-less, one-man bandwagon. They are trying to wedge themselves into an existing, mostly-saturated market, using their existing customer base as leverage. That will be difficult. Microsoft couldn't do it with their Windows Phone, though they made some very, very poor decisions early on which cost them dearly, and they lost more of their user base than BB has before their attempt at a reboot. That's the one thing they have going for them: They're still holding onto a fair amount of the enterprise market that neither Apple nor Google initially targeted.

I don't know if Blackberry will be able to do what Microsoft couldn't. I'm rooting for them though. The smartphone landscape could use a third player.

Re:Really want this to suceed (0)

dfghjk (711126) | about a year ago | (#43605793)

"Apple and Google both succeeded for different reasons. Apple succeeded because they introduced a revolutionary device. When everybody else was moving to full QWERTY keyboards and sliding form factors, Apple went with a single, simple, touch screen. They effectively created a completely new segment of the phone market for themselves. That, coupled with Jobs' reality distortion field, launched the iPhone into history.

Google saw Apple's stragglehold of this new market, and decided they wanted a piece of that market. But instead of competing directly by putting out their own phone, they wrote the software and gave it away to Apple's existing competitors. They figured the cream would rise to the top, which it has. They basically pulled a Microsoft on Apple."

You're someone who knows nothing about smartphone history.

"They are trying to wedge themselves into an existing, mostly-saturated market, using their existing customer base as leverage."

That's what Apple did. You're just choosing to redefine the market after the fact. Smartphones existed before Apple instroduced its "revolutionary" device. Those of us who used them BEFORE Apple's version had to wait for Apple to take a couple generations to finish copying the smartphone that existed already.

Re:Really want this to suceed (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#43609317)

First of all, QNX is awesome

That will not get you a user base. You need to add Bling.. lot's of big fat, cpu grinding Bling. Users want Pretty and they want it Fast. .. a few poniez on the wallpaper selections help too. I'm not kidding.

Big Fish, Small Pond (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602791)

But will developers actually work with a platform with such low market-share?

I don't know. Do developers want to work for a platform that is saturated with thousands of similar applications, like the Apple and Android markets? It seems to me that the Blackberry market may not be a bad one to enter. Yes, the market share is much smaller, but there's also less competition.

UI (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43602815)

That is QT/QML means that it could be ported (or just recompiled) to Linux, Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish, or other platforms that don't have QT included but that is available (and that means most of alternatives). Is not a dead end, but a good training camp if not successful. Focusing where possible in what is not platform specific will help too.

The computer version of "atm machine" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43602847)

Programming application programming interface... seriously?

Re:The computer version of "atm machine" (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#43602967)

It's a programming API. This obviously means that RIM will let people make assemblers, compilers, and interpreters that compete with the likes of C, Objective-C, Python, and Scratch. ;)

When is BB10 coming out for playbook? (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | about a year ago | (#43602853)

Their tablet is really fast and slim but with no update to BB10, devs can only port older droid apps (from what I understand 2.3 and older) Comon bring out BB10 for the PB.

Re:When is BB10 coming out for playbook? (1)

substance2003 (665358) | about a year ago | (#43603167)

Two problems with updating to BB10 telling me it won't happen.
Blackberry's CEO says Tablets will be dead in 5 years so that is not giving me the impression that supporting their aging tablet is something they'll put a priority on.
The other issue is the Playbook specs. Seems the processor and memory in the Playbook are below those of the Z10 so some fear the BB10 Os may not run very well on the Playbook.

I do hope I am wrong as I am also a Playbook owner and quite happy with it.

No Objective-C? (1)

grub (11606) | about a year ago | (#43603127)

I was a bit surprised to see C and C++ but no Objective-C support.
If Blackberry is really hoping to get those "killer apps" ported over, supporting Objective-C would seem like a no-brainer.

Re:No Objective-C? (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43603279)

Supporting Obj-C isn't much good unless they also have Cocoa-Touch.

Re:No Objective-C? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603687)

Objective-C is supported just as much as C++, you just need to use an objective-C compiler. The system APIs are still C, but if you consider C++ "supported" just because there's a compiler the ObjC is supported as well.

Blackberry - Enemy of Open Source (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year ago | (#43603203)

Surely I can't be the only one that remembers when QNX made their source code available (under a look but don't touch license). It was very educational and useful. I even found a couple bugs and submitted fixes for them. But then they revoked access to the code just before RIM bought them. Too bad. I learned long ago not to depend on closed source operating systems. When Blackberry unlocks the source code, I'll buy one and start developing. Until then, I'll stick to Android.

Apps?? (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year ago | (#43603239)

"But what really makes or breaks a phone is the quality (and quantity) of its third-party apps."

Pundits keep saying this (over and over and over), but I tend to disagree. I and everybody I know who have Windows Phones generally don't see "apps" as a problem. Personally, there aren't any "apps" that are a deal breaker for me, because I use my phone for business. Games and "apps" are for the laptops.

Re:Apps?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603311)

Exactly. I don't even *kind* of pretend that I'm normal, but I don't load crap on my phone. I have Facebook, a barcode scanner, a flashlight, Opera Mini/Mobile, a wifi finder, and The Economist app. Have I installed Angry Birds in the past? Of course, just to see what everyone was talking about. But apps don't even come near the middle of my list on what phone to buy.

I don't understand it, but as I said, I know that I'm not typical.

Re:Apps?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603701)

Well, I expect to be able to SSH into machines, to be able to tunnel through SSH, to have GPG encryption/decryption. That's kind of the minimum, and since few (no?) systems have built-in support for this apps are quite critical to me.

Re:Apps?? (2)

Carewolf (581105) | about a year ago | (#43604687)

Well, I expect to be able to SSH into machines, to be able to tunnel through SSH, to have GPG encryption/decryption. That's kind of the minimum, and since few (no?) systems have built-in support for this apps are quite critical to me.

The Nokia N9 had built-in terminal and SSH, though I think you had to activate developer mode before the icons showed up on the home page.

Re:Apps?? (1)

Shados (741919) | about a year ago | (#43603569)

There's productivity apps though. You SHOULD be able to find almost anything you need for all iOS, Android and Windows Phone at this point, but the quality differs widely.

On tablets, you have Penultimate for iOS for example. I'm an android user. We have semi-equivalent apps, but none are as good.

Exchange support: On Android, the best one is Touchdown. It works, but it looks like crap, and drains battery like crazy. The Windows Phone support is better (amusingly enough, not as good as Windows Mobile was though).

For scanning documents when i dont have a scanner handy, I use CamScanner. Windows Phone has similar applications, but none are as good. I don't know if iOS has better or not. Probably does.

And for games (do keep in mind that the vast majority of people with smartphones use them outside of work), iOS is king, as virtually all games available for other platforms will have an iOS implementation, but the other way around is often not true. All platforms have Angry Birds, but.....ugh.

Thats just a few examples, but its really important: you have the basics on all platforms, but the "bests" are often not cross platform.

May I use Watcom !O? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43603343)

For this to be a programmable API operation? To Eclipse is to be pedantic. RIP Ann-Margret./

Even most BB developers won't use these. (1)

JMZero (449047) | about a year ago | (#43603451)

Compatibility is a two edged sword. Being able to easily port Android apps makes that the easy path - develop for Android, still get BB support.. why would you bother writing for the BB API? That means your platform gets more apps to start, but very few unique ones - and many that don't make best use of your unique features/APIs.

No (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43603751)

Short answer: NO
Long answer: NO.

Cross-Platform (1)

accessbob (962147) | about a year ago | (#43605993)

BlackBerry support QT4.8, and 5.0 can be compiled. Digia (who now own QT) have ported it to Android and IOS, with Win8 on the horizon.

Finally, portable C++ apps.

And if you prefer something standards-compliant, you can code in HTML5 and embed that as an app.

Btw if you you do create web apps, BlackBerry own and develop the Ripple emulator.

What's not to like?

criteria shifts (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43606831)

"But what really makes or breaks a phone is the quality (and quantity) of its third-party apps."

Oy, this makes me feel really old. I remember when what made or broke a phone was its ability to make and receive calls well. What's worse, maybe, it's what I still select phones by.

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