May 10, 2011
Meet the newest Android tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. Wait, what? That’s right, the BlackBerry PlayBook, BlackBerry’s new tablet has compatibility with Android applications. As seen in the hands-on demo below, several Android applications are shown running on the BlackBerry PlayBook through the Android App Player, showing no kind of performance degradation due to running on the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The idea is to bring more apps to the PlayBook, as Android currently has a much wider selection of apps than BlackBerry does. Now, this isn’t the kind of thing where an end user could take an APK file and run it on the PlayBook directly, they are “BAR” files. Developers will have to redeploy their apps for the PlayBook, but BlackBerry manufacturer RIM claims that they will be adding an extension to the Android SDK, so this could be largely a hassle-free process for developers looking to release their apps on the PlayBook.
There are many advantages to the Android App Player. First, it is presumably a new opportunity for developers to expand the reach of their Android apps. While RIM will be curating the apps that come to the Playbook, it could be presumed that RIM will turn away few developers who are interested in expanding the app selection for their new device. Second, this increases the number of apps available for users on the PlayBook, which makes it more useful, which can only be good for Playbook users and for PlayBook sales. Third, it could spur the development of tablet apps on both the PlayBook and for Android tablets, by having another potentially widespread tablet device to deploy apps on. While the PlayBook only simulates a Gingerbread device and not a Honeycomb tablet yet, this is only because the Honeycomb source is not yet available.
There are two concerns with the PlayBook’s Android App Player. First, how will games fare with the App Player? Will they suffer any performance hits from running on a simulated Android device? Second, is this just the harbinger of the PlayBook and BlackBerry OS’ demise? After all, why develop an app for the PlayBook specifically when a developer could just make an Android app that would also work on the PlayBook through the Android App Player? These two things will be answered in the coming months when the Android App Player is released.