Those rumors about the Blackberry Playbook running Android apps weren’t so wacky after all.
Research in Motion confirmed that its upcoming 7-inch tablet will provide Android developers with a simple way to port their apps to the Playbook. In other words, the entire Android Market won’t be available automatically–developers will still have to submit their apps to RIM and get them approved for sale through Blackberry App World. The same rules apply to Blackberry Java apps–the kind that are already available for Blackberry smartphones.
But how all this will work for users is still a little unclear. RIM’s press release says users will have to download an “app player” along with the apps of their choosing, so I’m not sure whether users will be able to launch Android apps the same way as native Playbook apps. And we won’t get an answer until May, when RIM demonstrates the process at its Blackberry World developer conference. The actual app players won’t be available until the summer, so don’t expect to run Android apps on the Playbook when it launches April 19.
This is a risky move for RIM. When the Android player becomes available, the Playbook could gain hundreds or thousands of new apps overnight. But at a time when iOS and Android are competing to have the healthiest app marketplaces, RIM is effectively discouraging developers from creating native Playbook apps. Why bother when they can easily port Android apps instead? For RIM’s Playbook, Android app support is like steroids–a quick and dirty way to get an edge, but dangerous in the long run.