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BlackBerry Development Gets More Open, Accessible and Lucrative

  • By Chris King
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Money-making Opportunities

A variety of money-making opportunities should be arriving from RIM in the near future. One item that RIM announced last year is the creation of an advertising services platform. It has finally arrived, and you should need only three lines of code to insert simple or rich media ads into Java-based or Web-based apps. RIM manages the advertising, freeing you from needing to negotiate with advertisers. They will launch with five ad networks and will support dozens more, spanning all global markets.

Developers can let the platform manage ads, in which case BlackBerry will try to select the best ad based on the context, or you can specify a particular ad to display. Ads will integrate with device capabilities, including features like click-to-call, click-to-map, click-to-calendar, etc. The SDK is available now, so you can experiment with monetizing your apps. On the backend, a dashboard will let managers see how well ad campaigns are performing. RIM will share 60% of revenue with developers.

Beyond ads, RIM is also rolling out a new payments platform. This will support new forms of revenue, most interestingly microtransactions. A game could charge, say, one dollar to access a new level or a social app could charge fifty cents to send a virtual gift. Users will be able to pay through credit card, PayPal, or carrier billing on cooperating carriers.

Developers can download the payment SDK now and start writing code to integrate payments into their apps. The actual service should go live at the end of this year for both Java and WebWorks apps.

Finally, on a more prosaic but still much-appreciated level, RIM will temporarily waive all fees associated with BlackBerry App World. That means no more charges for acquiring signing keys, submitting applications, or creating updates. Combined with the advertising platform, we may see an groundswell of free application submissions as developers rush to submit within this window.

RIM's New PlayBook

Apple has a big success in the iPad. Android tablets should be common by the end of the year. RIM answered these challenges with its announcement of the PlayBook, a powerful tablet. Unlike stand-alone tablets, the PlayBook is intended to pair with a BlackBerry smartphone; users should be able to seamlessly and securely move content between the devices. We should see the devices arrive in early 2011.

The PlayBook will run Java and WebWorks applications, using the BlackBerry 6 platform. However, it appears that developers may also be able to write native applications for it, as RIM advertises its support for POSIX and OpenGL. An SDK available later this year should provide a clearer idea of just how these apps will work.

With a dual-core 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 1024x600 resolution, the PlayBook seems likely to support very high-end gaming. Because the tablet runs a full version of Flash 10.1 and Adobe AIR, developers can reuse existing content intended for desktops.

Next Steps for BlackBerry Development

The future is looking brighter for BlackBerry app developers, who will have more choices for building apps, a hopefully smoother development cycle, and new options for paying the bills. Large numbers of users are migrating to more recent platforms, which support the advanced features RIM is rolling out. In fact, RIM announced that more than 75% of all BlackBerry App World downloads have gone to devices running OS 5.0 or 6.0. Also, with more than 1.5 million apps being downloaded each day, there's plenty of market to grab. Many of the changes announced can be integrated into existing apps with little effort, so why not download the new SDKs and start to experiment with these new features.

About the Author

Chris King is a senior software engineer at Gravity Mobile. He is the author of "Advanced BlackBerry Development" and a co-author of "Unlocking Android, Second Edition." When he isn't programming or writing for fun or profit, Chris can be found reading, baking, cycling, or hiking throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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This article was originally published on September 28, 2010

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