Conference Fun: Blackberry Developer Days

Having just returned from what was an eye opening Blackberry Developer Days conference in Johannesburg, I thought I’d write a few of my thoughts on it, and Blackberry itself (or rather the direction I see it going).

Firstly, thanks to the presenters, they showed both a good knowledge as well as a passion for the subject, both ingredients that kept me interested. Secondly let me state categorically that I am an Android Fanboy, love it, enjoy it, code it, and dare I say, worship it? Also, I’ve never touched or been close to developing anything for a Blackberry so this was something I went to with an open, yet somewhat skeptical, mind.

I’ve always thought of Blackberry as a device aimed at the corporate / business market, but after this conference I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Their consumer drive is impressive to say the least. In a nutshell with their 5.0 release of their OS, they’ve played a lot of catchup (to the other smart phone brands) of features they needed to add, and added some nifty things that make them really cool.

Here are some of the good things that stuck out for me:

  • The WebWorks Framework (widget building), particularly the ability to create an HTML / JavaScript app that can access phone functions directly – nice.
  • The Theme Studio, customize your own theme (even animated) for your Blackberry, cool idea.
  • Geolocation based services, not much to say here, pretty much on par with all the other manufacturers, although I think their model to handle loss of signal and use of best available service is better than others.
  • Changes to graphics, introduction of 3D OpenGL (think gaming) and an Animation API.
  • The ability and level to which you can integrate between applications on your device (both custom and built in), and outside via networking, was impressive, reminded me a lot of the android model, but different in many ways.
  • The Blackberry Alliance Program with cool incentives like loaner devices.
  • They actually showed us South African developers some love! With the ability to do paid apps and receive revenue it puts them ahead of Google (1/2 credit for the Google Africa conference next month, but give us paid apps already!), and WAY ahead of Apple (who I doubt even know we exist).

This is what was not so great for me:

  • Lack of support of the Eclipse plugin in Linux (Mac and Windows supported). Although there are workarounds but still… professing to be open and not supporting THE open source OS ?
  • The 70/30 cut on profits from sales of your app, seems a bit steep, but that’s just me.

All in all it was a good experience, an eye opener of sorts, I’ll definitely be getting into the Blackberry development arena.

One last thing I want to say is that, although Android is growing so rapidly and iPhone is, well, iPhone; here in South Africa Blackberry is still very much the leading brand (by far) in the bulk of the market (with their Blackberry Curve mostly). People don’t know “Android” and most don’t care to know “iPhone”, being priced way out of their pocket. Blackberry is what people use for a smart phone here, and it’s pretty dumb not to be targeting that market, if you’re serious about mobile development that is.

Next Up: Google Africa Conference, let’s see what THEY have to say…

Disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been a Blackberry Developer, I speak here purely from personal experience so feel free to correct me if I have been inaccurate in any way

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