Taking a cue from iOS and Android, Research in Motion has announced a single platform called BBX for its future phones and tablets.
BBX is RIM’s attempt to combine the fading BlackBerry smartphone platform with the young but struggling QNX operating system that debuted on the BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM made the announcement at its DevCon developers conference in San Francisco.
(MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry)
What does the news mean for consumers? Not much, at least for now. BBX will have the same look and feel as the BlackBerry PlayBook, and RIM hasn’t announced any new phones or tablets for the platform.
But for third-party developers, BBX is supposed to clarify what will become of their apps. Developers can write apps in HTML5, and those apps will be available on current smartphones running BlackBerry 6 or BlackBerry 7 as well as BBX. Or, they can use RIM’s new native software development kit to create 3D games or other rich apps that will only work on the PlayBook and future BBX phones and tablets. PlayBook apps based on Adobe AIR will also be supported on BBX.
RIM is also taking inspiration from Microsoft with BlackBerry Cascades, a user interface framework that developers can use in their apps. The idea of having a common user interface for certain kinds of apps reminds me of Microsoft’s Metro UI for Windows Phones, especially because both frameworks make use of big rectangular objects and fancy transitions.
As dull as all that may sound, remember that third-party developers make or break mobile platforms. The BlackBerry PlayBook was a commercial failure in large part because it doesn’t have a lot of great apps. RIM needs developer support, but that’s not going to happen unless developers have the right tools and know what will become of the apps they create.
Eventually, though, RIM will have to get developers excited with some new hardware. The company is rumored to launch its first QNX-based smartphone (now BBX) in early 2012, according to Boy Genius Report.