Last week BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) held a first-of-its-kind developer event, called the "BBM Hackathon," in which a group of talented mobile software developers packed into the swanky Ace Hotel for a few days, to share ideas and information and build the best BlackBerry applications that integrate with RIM's popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) IM app as quickly as possible.
After heading to New York for the Hackathon, schmoozing with developers and hopelessly trying to comprehend the complex details of the BlackBerry development process, I'm not a developer nor do I play one on TV, I was fortunate enough to get a sit down with RIM's Developer Relations Director Mike Kirkup.
In the shadow of the Empire State Building, Kirkup and I talked about everything from the new BBM Social development tools that he hopes will bring BBM and BlackBerry to the next level in the mobile space, the brand new BlackBerry 7 OS, and why he's not worried about the future of RIM and BlackBerry, despite a growing negative public sentiment around the company.
1) BlackBerry Messenger Social, and what it means to you
RIM recently released new development tools that allow BlackBerry software builders to integrate their applications with BBM, RIM's proprietary IM app, and Kirkup is particularly excited about the potential of these "BBM Social" tools for both developers and BlackBerry users.
"BBM Social represents a new opportunity for [app] discovery," Kirkup says, because when one BlackBerry user links a BBM-Social-enabled application to his or her BBM account and shares information via a BBM status update, it then brings that app to the attention of all of that user's BBM contacts. And sharing information on a new app also serves as a sort of endorsement for the software, from trusted BBM friends.
For instance, a BlackBerry user who has connected the BBM-Social-enabled foursquare for BlackBerry application to his BBM account can share "check-ins" and other location information via BBM. And BBM contacts who may not already use foursquare could be compelled to check out the service, since they're seeing other BBM friends use it.
The BBM Social tools could also be used to integrate games with BBM, so one BlackBerry user could instantly invite others friends to join in the action via BBM. And BBM users can view their connections' profiles to see which BBM-enabled apps they're currently using and find new software they may have missed otherwise.
Read more about BBM Social on RIM's developer blog.
2) The new BlackBerry 7 OS and "Liquid Graphics"
Earlier this month, RIM announced a new lineup of BlackBerry smartphones, all of which will run the brand new BlackBerry 7 mobile OS. Kirkup says BlackBerry 7 is by far the best OS RIM has ever released, and though he listed a number of cool new features and enhancements within, the focus was really on one thing in particular: Liquid Graphics.
What exactly, you ask, are Liquid Graphics? Put simply, Liquid Graphics are a combination of new hardware and software components that result in a much smoother or "liquid" UI and navigation experience than the BlackBerry platform provided in the past.
Any and all BlackBerry smartphone users are likely familiar with the clock icon that appears and freezes up their devices when their handhelds can't quite keep up with the tasks it's attempting to perform or when there's not enough free memory.
Thanks to some new code and a new chipset that enables the Open GL ES 2.0 graphics standard, BlackBerry 7 users will see vastly improved navigation in the form of faster scrolling through lists, speedy app launches, unhindered flicking between home screen panels, and more, according to Kirkup.
And best of all, BlackBerry 7 users should see significantly less general "lag" on their devices, that dreaded clock icon should appear much less frequently, Kirkup says.