21 Jul 2011

Android app player for BlackBerry PlayBook leaked

RIM has been talking about supporting Android applications on the BlackBerry PlayBook for a couple of months now, and like many worthwhile features, it’s taking awhile to get here. Luckily, an early version of the Android app player has leaked out for us to try.  The eventual goal is to have developers submit their Android creations to BlackBerry App World, where they would be sold alongside any other PlayBook app. Here’s a video demo RIM gave showing some basic apps in action.

The app contains most of the core Android applications,  like Settings, messaging, e-mail, clock, phone, contacts, camera, calendar, browser, voice dialer, gallery, downloads, dev tools, and the calculator. The camera app still isn’t communicating with the PlayBook’s hardware, but all of the standard Android controls are available. As demoed by RIM, you can summon the menu by using a downward swipe from the top pane. I’ve figured out that the back key has been mapped to a diagonal upwards swipe from the bottom pane (but not the corner, since that brings up the keyboard, and not straight up since that launches you into multitasking view).The keyboard is a little bit laggy, but both portrait and landscape view is supported. The browser wasn’t able to tap into GPS, and settings aren’t properly registering RAM usage, but it looks like it can tap into the storage memory info just fine. For now it seems like the only accounts you can add are Exchange – no Google love here, as you might expect, but this is RIM’s “first professional grade tablet”, so it does make sense. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to load up third-party Android apps just yet.
The apps are running in Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, which, as Phil points out, is more recent than what’s available to most Android users. Still, as a tablet, one would hope that the Android app player would support Honeycomb 3.0 eventually. Despite some of those functionality in gaps, the source says this leak is a bit older, so there are lkely plenty of improvements on the way before the summer launch of the feature. If you’d like to give this a shot on your PlayBook, you’ll need the necessary software to sideload BAR files, and then install this file. It’s interesting that the file is actually hosted by RIM – the source just happened to know where to look thanks to some log files in the BlackBerry Desktop Software.
What do you guys think of the whole idea, anyway? RIM’s been kind of dismissing the feature as a throwaway to those hurting for app “tonnage”, but aren’t apps the be-all-end-all of a successful mobile platform these days? If you’ve got any questions about the app player, let me know, and I’ll see what I can dig up.

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