Version 3.2 of Pixelated Plus released

Pixelated Plus has been updated to version 3.2 in BlackBerry AppWorld. This new version includes support for diacritical marks on the PlayBook, and improved social media options on BlackBerry 7 devices, as well as other bug fixes.

About Pixelated Plus

Pixelated Plus is an addicting puzzle based strategy game that requires a mixture of skill and luck in order to accomplish. The object of the game is to change the colour of the squares until the entire screen is a single solid colour. Starting with the square in the upper left corner you can change the colour of the blocks in order to match that of the surrounding squares. This is done repeatedly until the entire screen is a single colour. The object of the game is to clear the screen in as few moves as possible. Under the default settings you must do so in under 22 moves in order to win.

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Windows 8 and apps

I have had a preview of Windows 8 on my laptop for about half a week, and this is a significant change for the desktop OS. Not only due to Windows 8 playing nice with touchscreen, but the importance that apps will have on the platform.

First a story about Twitter. I have been an active user on Twitter for about a year and a half. On my BlackBerry I use the default Twitter client. On my PlayBook, I use Blaq. On my Windows 7 desktop I just use the Twitter website. However, just a few hours after installing Windows 8 on my laptop, I felt the need to go out and download a third party app for Twitter.

There is something about the design of the metro interface that demands an app centric approach to the platform more similar to how we currently view phones and tablets, rather than today’s desktop PCs. In fact whenever you are using the traditional desktop (or any desktop apps) it feels as if you are in a virtual machine.

As a result the non-Metro apps no longer feel like native apps on the platform. This combined with the inclusion of the Windows Marketplace as the default way to download apps is going to lead to a sea of change on the app side of the platform.

Exciting times.

Xploding Boxes expands by another 10 levels

Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 3.5 which adds an additional 10 levels to the game. This brings the total number of levels in the game up to 320. This update is available to all versions of Xploding Boxes including BlackBerry phones, the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Barnes and Noble Nook, as well as the Google and Amazon Android stores.

As before, the first 25 levels are free, while the rest of the levels can be accessed after making a single $2.99 in-app purchase.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, and Nook, where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

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Apps for the Dev Alpha

With the most recent update to the BlackBerry DevAlpha, BlackBerry AppWorld is now included so that developers can download and purchase apps from each other through the store front. As a result, version 2.0 of Runaway Trains (which was just released last week), is one of a dozen games available for the BlackBerry DevAlpha.

However, most of my apps for BlackBerry 10 will not be available through BlackBerry AppWorld until closer to the launch of BlackBerry 10 early next year. Porting all of my PlayBook apps over to the Dev Alpha would go very quickly, but there is no reason to prematurely get all of the apps to be pixel perfect. There is still a long while to go until the launch of BlackBerry 10.

Runaway Trains adds support for BlackBerry phones

The puzzle game, Runaway Trains has been updated to version 2.0. This update adds support for BlackBerry touchscreen phones running OS 6.0 or higher. Additionally ten new levels were also added, and the level selection screen received a visual make over.

After launching on the PlayBook earlier this year, Runaway Trains is now also available on BlackBerry and Android phones including the Dev Alpha. In the game, the first 25 levels are free, while you can use an in-app upgrade to get access to the rest of the levels for just $2.99 USD. If you have already purchased the upgrade on the PlayBook you will be able to get access to all of the levels for free on the phones (and vice versa). Additionally if you purchase access to all of the levels now, your purchase will also give you access to the game on BlackBerry 10 phones when the launch next year.

About Runaway Trains

Runaway Trains is a colorful strategy game for all ages where you must route the trains to the proper station. Each level progresses in difficulty and presents an unique puzzle which you must solve by finding a way to guide the coloured trains causing a collision or running out of track.

This is done by touching the intersections to toggle the open path of the tracks. If at any time the trains crash or end up at the wrong station, you will have lost and have to try again.

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Android app on Google Play

RIM needs to remain wary of wireless carriers

Occasionally in interviews, executives at RIM have mentioned how excited that wireless carriers are about BlackBerry10. However, this has me more worried than excited, because the carriers have not always had RIM’s best interest at heart.

For example, there are reports that the carriers are actually happy that BlackBerry10 has been delayed to Q1 2013. This is probably true. A Q1 release of BlackBerry10 gives the carriers something new to push in a quarter when they typically won’t have much else new on their shelves. It allows the carriers to hedge their bets on BlackBerry10 by promoting it during a more low key part of the year as opposed to the busy Christmas season. But just because it is good for the carriers does not imply that the delay is also good for RIM. Of course in this case, the delay may be good for RIM, by giving them the time needed for a solid launch, but it better not be done for the carrier’s sake.

In the past the carriers have been a problem for RIM. By depending upon the carriers to approve OS updates, RIM could not update devices in a timely manner (especially compared to Apple). Caving to requests from Verizon also led RIM to release the Storm and Tour without wi-fi. A few to many deals with the carriers also lead to RIM never offering a touch screen BlackBerry on more than one US carrier at a time until less then a year ago. (And RIM wonders why they have so little of the touchscreen market in the US).

For the rollout of BlackBerry10, RIM needs to remove the carriers from OS upgrades. RIM needs to keep the devices clear of the shovelware that plagues Android. RIM needs to launch across all carriers within the same month. While the wireless carriers are important retail channels, they are actively working against RIM whenever they try to be more then dumb pipes. Caving to the carriers would put RIM at a disadvantage to Apple and Microsoft.

The doldrums of BlackBerry development

The next few months are going to be a tough time to be a BlackBerry developer. With the traditional BlackBerry OS being phased out, and BlackBerry 10 not yet available, developers are stuck in a middle ground without any clear path.

App developers are dependent upon the long tail of sales in order to make a living from creating apps. Sales of an app within the first month are insignificant when compared to sales over a year or two. While this can be discouraging to new developers it is actually a source of comfort to developers with a few apps already up for sale as it can lead to a bit of steady income. Over three years after its release, I know that I can count on Pixelated to continue to generate some sales.

The problem, of course, is that the current BlackBerry OS no longer has much of a long tail. It has already been almost a year since RIM has released any new and interesting hardware, and RIM will not be releasing a single new device that is capable of running applications built for the current BlackBerry OS. Without much of a real possibility of continuing sales over the next few years it is hard to commit the time to a significant new BlackBerry project at this time.

The future is BlackBerry 10. But without any BB10 devices presently up for sale, and with the marketshare of BB10 phones at 0.0% for at least the next six months there is currently no opportunity to sell apps on BB10 either. While there is a benefit to being ready to go for the launch of the platform, there will be plenty of time to do so in the future (and at this point, little reason to jump in before the tools are gold). Because while app development is all about the long tail, you can’t justify doing work now that you won’t get the opportunity to be paid for in the next year.

This gap between the two platforms (which was made worse by the delay in the launch of BlackBerry 10) is leaving BlackBerry developers in a bit of a doldrums over the next few months.

So what options do devs have? There are some environments such as WebWorks and ActionScript that support both BlackBerry 10 and the current PlayBook, but the next few months are also going to provide an opportunity to spend time on updating current apps, and expanding to more platforms.

(And of course, despite everything I said above, my PlayBook game, Runaway Trains will be released for touchscreen BlackBerry phones within the next week or two.)