Game programmers used to spitting out OpenGL won't be happy with the BlackBerry OS, but it's still possible to do a perfectly good job with animated SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files and many other forms of video codecs available with the JSR 135-compatible media programming framework. Those may be enough because many BlackBerry users spent their teen years with Nintendo games, and some were even born before Pong came along. Cool graphics may not be necessary to pique their interest.
The simulator lets the programmer experiment with what happens when the user reacts to events by answering a call, ignoring it, or placing the handset in a holster. There are also options that simulate moving the phone to any coordinate.
"The simulator is way better than the Windows Mobile emulator," says Jay Flick. "They really put a lot of work into simulating the incoming calls, simulating the GPS. For delivering a quality product without having the device in your hands, RIM has that down pat."
BlackBerry's software distribution model is also more of a throwback to the days when you installed software by copying files, not by syncing with some iTunes store. You can even use a command line to load the software over a USB link. Java MIDlets can be downloaded from Web sites out there. All of this makes the BlackBerry world a bit more familiar to desktop programmers. Nevertheless, the success of Apple's App Store hasn't been lost on RIM. The company recently began accepting submissions to the BlackBerry Application Storefront.
One of the trickier conundrums facing the BlackBerry programmer is supporting the installed base. The new BlackBerry Storm comes with a bigger touch-sensitive screen and an accelerometer, two features that make it more like the iPhone. Longtime users love the old-style thumb boards, and their visceral reaction to change may mean that the old screen sizes and layouts will be with us for some time to come. This shouldn't be much of an issue for enterprise programmers and others who want to write serious software for serious people who want to plow through some serious data.
It's easy to forget about Nokia and the Symbian platform after wading through the hype about iPhone and the Google phone. As I'm writing this, AT&T is selling a Nokia 2610 for $10 with no two-year contract. An iPhone might cost you several thousand dollars over two years, but the Nokia will do the job for $10 and 25 cents a minute. The low-end phone might not offer a great Web browser, GPS, OpenGL graphics, or other tools, but it runs Java ME (Micro Edition) applications and delivers the packets for a dramatically lower price point.
The good and bad news is that this is far from the beginning or end of the Nokia line. The company just introduced another phone, the N97, which comes with a touchscreen, GPS, Bluetooth, and too many other acronyms to list. One devoted fan writes on Engadget, "One has copy and paste, A2DP, a QWERTY keyboard, and a screen resolution which is 1.5 times larger than its rival. Meanwhile, the rival has a (inconsistently) walled garden and a smug bastard swimming in sacrificial fanboy donations from Cupertino." The Nokia phones are good enough to attract their own fanboys.