Category Archives: BlackBerry10

Impressed by the Invocation Framework

Coming out of BlackBerry Jam Americas, the thing that has impressed me most has been the invocation framework. While the feature had been announced earlier, it had not actually been available to developers until last week’s release of and this also seems to be the first time that details of the implementation were widely seen.

(For more on the invocation framework see Kevin Cheung’s article at CrackBerry and Shadid Haque’s presentation at BlackBerry Jam in San Jose.)

First some history of the feature. BlackBerry added the net.rim.blackberry.api.invoke.Invoke class to their classic OS with the release of version 4.0 (years before I started doing BlackBerry development) which would allow an app to programmatically start another app along with some command line arguments. While this was powerful, everything you did felt a bit like a hack, and it required you to know exactly which app you wanted to launch, and would only do so in a separate app (perhaps messing up what this other app was already doing). Android improved on this slightly with their Intents framework that allowed apps to register as being able to handle given types so that the calling application doesn’t technically need to know all of the details about the app that is being called.

BlackBerry 10 keeps the idea of being able to register for types, but adds the concept of cards, so that new applications can be invoked without appearing to be new applications. Instead the invoked app just shows up as a ‘card’ which to the user appears to be nothing more than a new page in the same app (even though it is being generated by a different app). This keeps everything on the same stack (what the developers at RIM would refer to as ‘flow’). This results in a less fractured user experience, ensures that the user finishes their work with the card before returning to your app, and allows for the app to be launched in parallel with the app that is generating the card (and with other cards generated by that same app). Cards can also me nested, which would result in a very confusing experience, if not for the fact that it appears to the user, as if it is all part of a single application.

This is an innovation that will be difficult to show off to consumers (as its main feature is that it works while staying out of the way), but it is very exciting to developers, and it will make BlackBerry 10, just that much better.

Xploding Boxes version 4.0 – new levels, new shapes, new devices

Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 4.0, bringing with it a collection of new features. This update comes with 20 new levels, increasing the total number of levels to 340. These new levels also support a new ‘Diamond’ shape in order to add more variety to the levels. Also the range of supported devices has expanded to include BlackBerry 10, and Windows 8 in addition to the existing support for Android, the Nook, BlackBerry phones, and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

New Diamond shape

The levels added in this version (321-340) introduce a new diamond shape. Unlike the boxes (which explode out in four directions), and the triangles (which explode in only one direction), the diamonds explode into two directions. As such their effect on a level is usually somewhere between that of a box and a triangle. This additional variable results in more level variation, and will allow for more creative levels to be designed.

New device support

Xploding Boxes started out exclusive to BlackBerry phones. Then a year ago, support was added for the BlackBerry PlayBook. This was followed by support for the Barnes and Noble Nook last December, and Android devices this past summer. Now version 4.0 adds in full support for BlackBerry10, and can even be downloaded from AppWorld today for those with the BlackBerry DevAlpha. Support has also been added for tablets and computers running Windows 8, however actual availability of the game in the Windows Store is dependent upon Microsoft’s whims.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, and Windows 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.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while an in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

Links & Information

Hopes and Expectations for BlackBerry Jam

Last year before BlackBerry DevCon I wrote my expectations for the event. For the most part, it turned out that my expectations were wrong. Still, I figured that I would give it another go this year.


First off all, I expect the focus to be squarely on BlackBerry 10, with no time at all spent on the current BlackBerry 7 devices, and even the PlayBook being most ignored.

I think that RIM will show off their first two BlackBerry 10 phones. Even if a hands-on is not available, I think that RIM will be able to show off final renderings for the devices, and set expectations. Some may worry about an osborne effect, but that ship has already sailed.

I also expect RIM to release some version of BBM for the DevAlpha, as the roadmap indicates that the BBM APIs will be available.


I would love it if RIM would release a simulator for every BlackBerry 10 screen size that they plan on releasing. While the first phone will match the 768×1280 of the DevAlpha, it would be nice if there were simulators at 720×720, 720×1280, and 600×1024 as well. Most apps will be designed to work at all orientations, but it would be nice if there was an easy way to test this.

Most of all, I hope to be surprised. That RIM still has something up their sleeve that I don’t know about. Something that hasn’t been endlessly leaked on every blog. RIM did a good job with this at BlackBerry World in the spring, hopefully they can do it again.

Ignoring RIM’s $10k guarantee

A few months ago I wrote about about RIM’s $10,000 gurantee on BlackBerry 10 apps at BerryReview. Since then RIM has released some more details about the program, and for the most part my initial assumptions were more or less correct. Yet as the launch of BlackBerry 10 gets closer, the existence of this offer seems less relevant.

Due to the target platforms of the program (requiring apps to be written in Cascades, C/C++, or HTML5), the details of the program (requiring integration of BBM, the Invocation framework, and legal disclaimers), and the limiting of the program to a single app per developer, it seems highly likely that none of this will qualify me to receive an extra payout. My established apps such as Pixelated and Xploding Boxes will easily sell over $10,000 in the first year and exclude me from any incentive to jump through the loop holes specifically for the sake of this program. Of course there are plenty of other reasons why integrating with services like BBM are a good idea, but this offer does not affect them. As such the best approach going forwards is probably to just ignore the fact that the $10k gurantee exists at all.

Of course this is kindof the point. The idea was never to offer prize money or a payout, but instead to simply offer some insurance on taking a risk on the new platform. RIM is guarantee that high quality apps will sell, and assuming that this is correct, then RIM will not have to pay anything out anyhow.

The main target of this offer appears to be developers of existing C/C++ and HTML apps on other platforms. By giving them a minimum revenue gurantee, it makes it much easier for them to justify the time and risk in porting over their apps to BlackBerry10. For those of us who have been selling apps on BlackBerry for a while now, we already know that we can expect to see sales, and as such this offer does not add much to the decision process, and can mostly just be ignored.

For more opinions on this program from some of the top BlackBerry developers see this post on the developer forums.

Runaway Trains adds more levels

Runaway Trains has been updated to version 2.1 in BlackBerry AppWorld, the Nook Bookstore, Google Play, and the Amazon AppStore.

This new version of Runaway Trains adds levels 141-150, and also includes a few improvements to the game’s menu.

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.

Links & Information

Android app on Google Play

BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012

I am now officially registered for the BlackBerry Jam conference this September in San Jose. This will be my third time at a major BlackBerry conference, and even though I am not scheduled to speak this time, it will still be a great event. As always at these events, if you see me around, I would love to have the opportunity to chat.

For more about the 2012 BlackBerry Jam Americas conference see

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.

Links & Information

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.)

What wasn’t seen at BlackBerry World

Much has already been written about what was said at BlackBerry World and BlackBerry 10 Jam. (The most interesting probably being this article done by Forbes). But I think that it is even more interesting to look at what didn’t happen during this week.

Android was nowhere to be seen

Most attendees at BlackBerry World were using a BlackBerry Bold (about 80% of the crowd). Another 10% were using a BlackBerry Torch, and the remaining 10% were using iPhones. I really don’t think that I saw a single Android device during the entire event. What is more is that despite the announcement that BB10 would allow Android apps to run in their own windows, nobody seemed all that interested in writing Android apps, with the attention being placed on Cascades and HTML5/bbui.js instead.

Nobody was complaining about the lack of support for BBOS java apps

At BlackBerry DevCon this last fall you could not go anywhere without running into someone complaining about the lack of support for BlackBerry Java apps on the platform. While it wasn’t the slightest bit of a surprise to those of us paying attention, it was a very annoying to have to hear about it again and again. Fortunately, those people have finally gotten over themselves. Perhaps is was due to seeing how non-native the Android apps looked and acted, or by seeing how easy Cascades was to work with, but I didn’t run into anyone still bemoaning the point.

Dan Dodge wasn’t there

Despite his recent promotion, nobody seems to have seen Dan Dodge at the event. He has always preferred to be a behind the scenes type of guy, but in retrospect it was a bit weird that he wasn’t in Orlando. So John Pinkerton tells me that Dan Dodge was at the event. Still interesting that he was at BlackBerry World, rather then on the tech side of things.

There was a lack of media at BB10Jam

It was surprising to see how much most of the media just shrugged its shoulders in regards to BB10Jam and made little to no attempt to cover it. In the article mentioned at the top of the post, Brian Caulfield wrote about how he “sneaked” in. But even from the blogs there was very little coverage. The bloggers that are typically at these types of events were only seen at the joint party at Universal Studios.

In conclusion

Are any of these points really that significant? Probably not. Still, this is my way of reporting on what happened this past week in Orlando without pointlessly rehashing what everyone else has already written.