RIM extends BlackBerry app development to Web developers

BlackBerry capabilities no longer limited to Java developers as the new Widget SDK backs technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Research in Motion (RIM) will preview on Tuesday technologies enabling application builders to use Web development skills to build programs for the company's BlackBerry smartphone.

Previously, Java development skills have been required to build applications leveraging BlackBerry capabilities, RIM said. Technologies set for release in a beta format include the BlackBerry Widget SDK (Software Development Kit), for building integrated applications using common Web technologies such as HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JavaScript; a command-line tool to convert the Web application into a Java application; and a simulator to test applications. General release of the three technologies is planned for later this year. The beta technologies can be accessed at BlackBerry's developer site.

[ Earlier this year, RIM officials earlier this year marked the 10th anniversary of the BlackBerry, emphasizing the device as a business applications platform. | Smartphones present a veritable Tower of Babel for developers. See InfoWorld's recent report. | Get InfoWorld's 20-page hands-on look at the new generation of mobile devices and see how the BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and more stack up agaist business needs, all from InfoWorld's editors and contributors. ]

RIM's move greatly expands the base of developers who can build for its popular device, with more developers capable of building Web applications than Java applications, said Mike Kirkup, RIM director of developer relations. Developers can take Web content and essentially turn it into a widget on the BlackBerry platform, he said.

"What this is, it would give people the ability to have the same look and feel as Java applications on the BlackBerry by using Web development and Web technologies," Kirkup said. Widgets still enjoy benefits of Java applications, such as native integration with other applications, local storage, location-based services, and sandbox security.

"The idea here is a new development methodology," said Kirkup.

Developers render an application interface using Web technologies; Web applications can be extended using BlackBerry Widget APIs. For example, developers can provide for interaction between a widget and the BlackBerry e-mail and calendar applications.

Or widgets could be developed to view or edit files and documents stored on the BlackBerry. Developers can use RIM push technology enabling dynamic widgets that run in the background and provide alerts to users.

All three technologies will be available free of charge. Developers will need version 5.0 of the BlackBerry OS. BlackBerry Widgets can be distributed through the BlackBerry App World online application store or, in corporate environments, through BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

While RIM now is offering its own technologies for Web development, third party Rhomobile previously has offered its Rhodes framework enabling use of HTML to build for smartphones including the BlackBerry.

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