Given that I am signed up as a Blackberry developer, I got a free pass to the Blackberry 10 Jam in Orlando! Because of my 8 to 5 job I was in the area so last week I signed up and attended two days of conferences. This was a really cool experience since it’s the first conference of this type that I attend. I learned a lot, even though most of this learning was not from the conference itself but because of the experience of being there.
The following are the major takeaways I have for last week:
Blackberry knows how to throw a party
At first when I read the conference schedule and saw there would be a party in Universal Studios I thought this would be in the City Walk area… but later found out that BB had reserved a big part of the actual Universal Studios theme park exclusively for the BB partygoers. So we not only had a good number of rides for ourselves, but had tons of free food, free drinks, and live music. Lots of fun.
It’s good to have contact with other developers
Unfortunately I have very little contact with other app developers/entrepreneurs. I was able to talk to several during this conference and it felt awesome to be able to be on the same page in terms of ideas and technology. I think this is really necessary to keep yourself on the leading edge of what’s happening, to share ideas and get feedback, etc. Even if it’s just to talk about the latest news or what we think will happen with Blackberry, it’s fun to be able to talk with people who share your own interests.
Blackberry is focusing on the developer
It’s pretty obvious Blackberry is focusing a good part of their effort on getting apps into their ecosystem, and this is a good thing for app developers. For example, they are almost promising you will make at least $10,000 if you publish your app for the BB platform. A few months ago they were giving away Playbooks for any Android app developer who published their app for the Playbook. And during the conference they gave away Blackberry Dev Alpha devices.
Speaking of the Dev Alpha devices…
I was again amazed when I found out I would be getting a development device. Really nice incentive from BB. However I wouldn’t say it’s alpha… how about pre-alpha? For example, it only comes with 2 apps: a camera app and a browser. This is fine until I find out there is no way to actually see the pictures I’ve taken since there is no “Gallery” app. No problem, I thought, since I can just connect it to my PC and download the pictures that way. Well, it turns out that the Blackberry Desktop software doesn’t recognize it as a valid device, so it seems I’ve forever lost the pictures of myself partying with fellow developers (which might actually be a good thing).
I wasn’t able to install the App World app either. So basically I’ve got a portable web browser for the moment. Hopefully an update will come over the air soon so I can have an actual phone for development.
HTML5 is cool
I had long read tons of articles about the native vs web approaches to mobile app development and had sided on native. It seemed web was a shortcut and “the easy way out”. However during the lectures I attended I got a different perspective and I’m now pretty convinced that HTML5 is the way to go for most apps, especially if your app is not a game.
I think I reached this epiphany partly because of my current apps and my app needs: I believe that the Electrician Calculator Pro and the Language Flashcards could be easily reproduced using HTML5, and this would allow me to sell them and almost all mobile platforms. That’s really powerful.
I’ve started to read some about HTML5 and PhoneGap, which seems to me like a good framework to do this. I’m still curious on how some things can be done (for example how to get a different look and feel depending on the platform (would this be as easy as including iOS.css or Android.css?), how to do stuff like in-app purchases and/or licensing) but I’m sure the answers are out there. HTML5 is the future of web, so it makes sense as a developer to learn this even if I keep on creating native apps.
Good luck, BB
Although in some ways the conference left some questions regarding BB’s future (for example the very low attendance), I left the conference with a good impression regarding Blackberry. It seems that they’re genuinely trying to get back to their better days. While it’s probably impossible for them to be what they used to be, they’re not going down without a fight.