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Blackberry BBX: a platform for the future?

Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Research in Motion, took to the stage in San Francisco to announce the future of the BlackBerry platform at the company’s Devcon Americas event. Building on the QNX-powered PlayBook Tablet OS, RIM’s next generation platform will be called BBX.

Lazaridis promised, “What we’re doing to make [BlackBerry] even better, transforming the tablet experience into a single platform and a single vision. It’s the power of QNX, of open standards, and of BlackBerry”. Dan Dodge, president of QNX, continued the theme, “It’s a single unified platform that blends phone, tablet and embedded.”

RIM is putting a lot of work into making BBX a major mobile gaming platform, with 3D gaming frameworks from EA, Marmalade, Shiva3D and Unity. Tracy Erickson from the popular game engine Unity was impressed by BBX’s 3D support, saying, “Its open standards support was a major benefit”. More traditional applications will get a significant makeover with RIM’s own Cascades UI framework for native applications and with improved support for HTML 5.

RIM is telling developers that HTML 5 will be the way to migrate applications from BlackBerry 7, as RIM is dropping Java support in BBX; you won’t ever be able to run existing BlackBerry apps on the PlayBook or BBX phones. Dodge said that RIM was concentrating on HTML as the future, “We’re making HTML applications feel native, supporting USB in and out.”

BlackBerry will keep its enterprise roots in BBX, building in its Balance technologies that keep work and personal information and applications separate. It’s also adding support for more Bluetooth hardware with PlayBook, including keyboards and mice.

RIM is expected to launch BBX sometime in 2012 along with a range of new devices. There’s a beta of BlackBerry Tablet OS 2.0, which includes many BBX features like running Android apps, but it’s only aimed at developers and doesn’t have new PlayBook apps like email and BBM.