updated 07:20 pm EST, Fri February 25, 2011
Open letter argues PlayBook SDK too hostile
An open letter to RIM has given a look into potentially serious problems with the development process for the BlackBerry PlayBook. Jamie Murai noted that the costs of getting involved were far more expensive than with the iPad or Android. The PlayBook will not only cost $200 for most developers but only covers the first 10 apps; users also need to have a full copy of VMware Fusion or another ISO-friendly virtual machine to run the emulator, which could cost another $80.
The complaint also pointed out that many of the processes were unnecessarily complex, even for the improvements the WebWorks SDK was supposed to bring over regular BlackBerry app development. The kit divides the AIR SDK, PlayBook SDK and the emulator into three downloads. Much of the content was provided without documentation and wasn't intuitive even for a developer, Murai said.
Just compiling an app for the emulator was difficult, he explained. In addition to having to create an app archive without instructions, creating a proper app executable needed command line instructions. VMware wouldn't see the app without it being pushed to the virtual machine's private IP address.
Apple and Google skipped many of the hassles: both can effectively compile and run an iPad or Android app in emulation with a single button. The difference was enough to prompt an exit from PlayBook development altogether and an urging for RIM to understand that was losing the support even of people such as Murai, who lives in RIM's Waterloo, Ontario, Canada hometown.
"Being the underdog, you need to make your process AT LEAST as simple as Apple's or Google's, if not more so," he said. "You need to make your tools AT LEAST as good as Apple's or Google's, if not more so. You have failed at both."
The experience is likely to vary from developer to developer but may support the relatively quiet development news for the PlayBook, which has mostly centered on a handful of big-name apps from Amazon and games from EA. RIM nonetheless may be concerned about smaller developers' help and is rumored to be writing in Android app support to fill in the gaps artificially.