BlackBerry PlayBook to Run Android Apps: What It Means to You

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will support certain Google Android applications, but performance could be an issue. Here's expert analysis on what this news means to you--as a PlayBook owner, software developer or IT administrator--from's Al Sacco.

Fri, March 25, 2011

CIO — BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) (RIM) this week dropped a bombshell on the mobile world, confirming earlier rumors that almost seemed too far-fetched to believe when they hit the Web in January: RIM's new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, going on sale in the United States on April 19, will run applications originally developed for Google's (GOOG) popular Android mobile OS.

Google Android Logos on RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
Images via Google and Research In Motion

It's difficult to predict what exactly the BlackBerry PlayBook's ability to run Android apps will mean over time--RIM still hasn't provided a number of crucial details on the actual mechanics behind the announcement. And it hasn't released any sort of video showing how smoothly Android apps will run on the tablet. But one thing is for sure: The news will have far reaching implications for RIM and potential PlayBook buyers in the coming months.

Keep moving for my analysis on what Android apps running on the BlackBerry PlayBook will likely mean to PlayBook users, PlayBook software developers and the IT administrators who'll support RIM's tablet in the enterprise.

What Android Apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook Mean to Users

First off all, it will likely be several months after launch before BlackBerry PlayBook users see any Android apps for their tablets. RIM says the Android "app player," which will be available via BlackBerry App World and required to run Android apps on the PlayBook, is "expected" this summer. But RIM also said the PlayBook itself would be released in Q1 2011, and that hasn't happened, so it could be August or September before even the app player becomes available.

Also, the entire lineup of applications available in Android app stores like Google's Android Market or Amazon's new Appstore for Android will not likely be available for use on the PlayBook. In fact, RIM only announced PlayBook support for Android 2.3, or Android "Gingerbread," apps, so it's unclear just how many Android apps currently fall under that description.

In other words, PlayBook users won't simply be able to run any Android application. That's because Android developers will need to "repackage" their apps for distribution through BlackBerry App World, then work with RIM to get them approved. RIM has not yet specified whether or not PlayBook users will be able to get Android apps from sources other than App World, but it says the repackaging process for developers should be relatively painless. (The BlackBerry-maker is not exactly known for its smooth and easy app-submission processes, to say the least, so I can't help but wonder just how Android developers will take to working with RIM.)

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