With the explosion of web applications pushing the boundaries of online vs. offline interactions using technologies such as AJAX, Gears® and HTML 5, the lines between a website and an application are becoming much more blurred. To help bridge this gap, RIM has released the BlackBerry Widget SDK 1.0 Beta 1, which will enable widgets starting with BlackBerry Device Software 5.0.
What are BlackBerry Widgets?
- BlackBerry Widgets leverage BlackBerry APIs in a secure manageable container.
- BlackBerry Widgets have the same distribution/management model as native BlackBerry applications and can be distributed through BlackBerry App World™.
- BlackBerry Widgets are supported by BlackBerry Device Software 5.0 and up.
How do I Create a BlackBerry Widget?
Developers can author a BlackBerry Widget in any of their favorite web authoring tools. As outlined in the W3C specification, developers simply bundle their widget assets into a ZIP archive.
To then transform the archive into a BlackBerry Widget, developers must pass it through the BlackBerry Widget Packager command line software (part of the BlackBerry Widget SDK).
What about Security?
The same content access and IT policies that apply to native applications apply to BlackBerry Widgets. BlackBerry Widgets must be signed with a Research In Motion code signing key to explicitly identify the web resources that can be accessed by the widget. For more information on code signing, check out the security posts on the blog.
Like any web technology, when linking in resources from external sources, developers need to be sure that the content being received is from a trusted source. As well, to protect from a possible “man in the middle” attack, developers can secure their connection to outside resources via HTTPS.
It is also worth noting that BlackBerry Widget APIs apply only to BlackBerry Widgets and cannot be accessed within the BlackBerry Browser.
Getting into the “Nuts and Bolts”
The behind the scenes of the BlackBerry Widget Packager is where your archive is transformed into an installable BlackBerry application. For those who are not familiar with BlackBerry Java development, the following is for reference purposes only and simply explains the packaging process.
I am extremely excited about this new technology, as it drastically simplifies the development process for creating very compelling applications. The best part is that for all of you web developers out there, you won’t have to learn a bunch of new skills to be able to build powerful on-device BlackBerry applications.