BlackBerry back on track: tough times for native developers

Last week the unbelievable happened: there was a BlackBerry Earnings Call producing positive feedback from media and analysts ūüėČ

Back on track


There’s some light at the end of the tunnel: BlackBerry reported

  • $23 Mio profit
  • Cash goes up by $429 Mio to $3.1 billion
  • first time more BB10 devices sold then legacy BBOS devices

and more positive news. A short summary can be found here at BlackBerry Blogs or here at CrackBerry. John Chen did a great job – and he’s just 6 months on board.

Of course there’s also a downside: many jobs were cut while John Chen was restructuring BlackBerry and focusing on Enterprise. I feel with all the employees leaving BlackBerry. BlackBerry has not only loyal customers, but also loyal developers and employees. If you follow tweets from former BlackBerry employees they still sound positive about BlackBerry, BlackBerry 10 and current or upcoming new cool devices.

Amazon App Store coming with BlackBerry 10.3

Last week John Chen announced another important deal: a licensing aggreement with Amazon to bring the Amazon Store with more then 200 thousand (Android) Apps to BlackBerry. Since beginning of BlackBerry 10 there was also a way to run Android Apps on BlackBerry 10. This isn’t an Emulator – it’s a native Android implementation based on the Open Source Android and QNX Engineers did a great job to integrate Android into the OS. Each OS Update the integration was done better and there are users reporting Android apps are running as fast as on¬† pure – Android devices. The upcoming OS 10.3 supports Android 4.3 and gets Bluetooth LE, integration of Accounts, NFC and even Share Framework v2. Sharing works in both directions: Android Apps can share with and to BlackBerry 10 Apps. BlackBerry has provided some own Services – per ex. using OpenStreetMap where Google Maps are used in Android Apps. Probably you know that Google is trying to bind developers to Google with Google Play Services. Google Play Services are not Open Source and makes it not so easy for other vendors to make such Android Apps run. The current process was a wrapping to BlackBerry Services before publishing Android Apps to BlackBerry World. The process itself was easy, but over all not too many apps found their way to BlackBerry.

On the other side Amazon has its own App Store with 200+ Thousands of Android Apps. Amazon provides a SDK and also rebuilds the Google Play Services.

The deal with Amazon is a win-win for Amazon, Android Developers, Android Phone users and BlackBerry:

  • I promise that next time BlackBerry will present a new device the reviews from media will concentrate on the features and not complain the App gap. And next devices will have some cool unique features !
  • Android Developers for Amazon App Store will get access to some millions of Blackberry 10 Devices.
  • Android Users with paid or free apps from Amazon Store can switch easy to a new BlackBerry 10 device and get all their apps running.

As I read about this deal at first I thought it’s nothing really new because you could already install Amazon Store if sideloading the Amazon Store APK. So it’s more convienent for users to find Android Apps from Amazon and install them on their BlackBerry 10 Device.

John Chen is a cunning fox: the deal with Amazon is much more – it’s a deep cut changing the BlackBerry Developer ecosystem from ground ! John Chen is focusing the Company on Enterprise, Business, Productivity and Security. He has recognized that BlackBerry is great for this and has loyal customers worldwide and that BlackBerry cannot win against Android or iOS if counting Consumer Apps in App Stores. It’s much better for BlackBerry to make the Android Runtime better and better and let do Amazon all the Developer Support. And that’s the real deal with Amazon:

  • Amazon supports developers of consumer apps
  • Amazon will create Incentives and do Marketing
  • BlackBerry cuts the Developer Relations Team to reduce costs
  • BlackBerry motivates all developers of Consumer Apps to move over to Amazon
  • BlackBerry can focus on Developers of Business and Productivity Apps
  • Consumers will find most of their Apps like Spotify, Groupon, Netflix, Pinterest, Minecraft, …from Amazon App Store

Current Consumer Apps in BlackBerry World won’t be removed, but there will be no Marketing, no Featuring and so on. All support by BlackBerry will be to promote Business and Productivity Apps and there will be new programs to support enterprise and business – app – developers.

Here’s from virtual BBJAm Conference this week how both App Stores will work side-by-side:


Native BlackBerry 10 developers should work on Apps for Business and Productivity

All these great news are also sad news for native developers of Consumer Apps currently not available at BlackBerry World – if these apps now are directly available from Amazon App Store why should users pay for a BlackBerry 10 App – even if the UX is better from native Apps then Android Apps.

Some questions came up like “will this be the end of native apps ?“, “will this be the end of Cascades ?“, … NO – Cascades is the heart of BlackBerry 10 UX and if you see all the new things coming for 10.3 and 10.3.1 this will answer the question. Also only with native apps you can integrate apps deeply and provide the BlackBerry Flow to let Business Users work on workflows instead of single Apps.

BlackBerry 10 devices for Business Users can be used in three different ways:

  1. BlackBerry 10 device running native BlackBerry 10 / WebWorks Apps or also Android Apps – all controlled by the user. This is the device for Freelancers, small companies without BES – and also if used as pure Consumer Device.
  2. BlackBerry Balance: it’s like having two devices – a private one controlled by the user and a business one controlled by IT via BES 10 (BlackBerry Enterprise Services) This is the Device used by Enterprise worldwide.
  3. Regulated: Only work perimeter controlled by IT without private perimeter. This is the device used by some Governments or regulated domains.

Android Apps for Consumers

You must know: Android Apps can only run inside private perimeter – NOT in business perimeter ! All Enterprises or Business Users working from work perimeter need native apps done by Cascades (C++, QML) or WebWorks / Cordova (HTML5). Read about Android and Security here in an article by John Chen.

Don’t be confused if reading that Android Apps can run in Secure Workspace with BlackBerry: this means another use-case where you have an Android Device and want to control this Device from BES10. Then you can not only manage Android (and also iOS) Devices¬† from BES 10 – you can also install a Secure Workspace on those Android Devices and inside this Secure Workspace you can install special-wrapped Android Apps a secure way.

Another question coming up:” I want to use¬† a BlackBerry 10 Device because it’s a secure device. Why should I buy a BlackBerry if there are also Android Apps running ?

You must know: Android Apps are running in a Sandbox ! All sensitive Apps are native BlackBerry 10 APPs with all the security built-in by nature: Hub, Contacts, Calendar, Accounts, BBM and more. So you get all the comfort and security from BlackBerry, great virtual or physical keyboards and more, but don’t have to miss your favorite APP all your friends are running on their devices.

So BlackBerry now can concentrate all their ressources and power to support Business App Developers and Business / Enterprise / Government customers to reach a stable position.

Z3 – first low-budget Consumer Device

BlackBerry also don’t forget Consumers – the new Z3 was launched in Indonesia followed up by more Countries. The Z3 is a low-cost Device produced by Foxconn – another deal John Chen did to survive: outsourcing production of Consumer Devices and concentrate on designing Devices and also produce high quality High-End-Priced devices by BlackBerry as before.

Passport – high-end Device – Swipe on a physical Keyboard

Last week John Chen also presented and demonstrated live the next two BlackBerry 10 devices: ‘Passport‘ – a big 1440×1440 px Device where you can not only type on your physical keyboard but also use the keyboard as Touch Area !


Passport not only is the first one where you can use touch gestures on a physical keyboard – Passport also is a really large device. Compare the physical dimensions between Q10 (physical Keyboard), Z30 (Touch device) and Passport:


I thought the 5″ Z30 is really big and I also thought the Q10 is the best Keyboard device – Passport will top both. I know this will become my next Device to type fast without loosing comfort of a large Screen.

Stay tuned – next article will be focused on the new Passport device and I will demonstrate Cascades with new 10.3 UI and HowTo to simulate a touchable physical keyboard. (Great work done by Cascades / QNX / Momentics Team) Also the Passport is so large, developers should rethink layouting: it’s more like a Tablet where you can use space besides a list. Take a look at the image above: scaling from Q10 to Passport would work as a first step – both have 1:1 aspect ratio, but Passport is so wide you can place some info besides lists if designing lists same physical width as on Z30.

Passport will be available in September followed in November by BlackBerry ‘Classic‘ – a device looking similar to the old Bold containing Buttons for Phone and Menu. Classic will make the transition easier for many users coming from old OS to modern BlackBerry 10 with full Touch Screens.

 Article edited: added some more details and images





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