One of the questions I am asked quite often is how to get a BlackBerry® Widget into the market, or how to deploy it to users. The answer to this requires a bit of an understanding of the underlying technology of a BlackBerry Widget.
In the end, the BlackBerry Widget is a Java® application that leverages the BrowserField2 component. Since it’s a Java application, your Widget can be deployed using any of the available means that any other BlackBerry® application would leverage. Something to be aware of, however, is that your application will require to be signed using the Research In Motion® (RIM) code signing keys. Once signed, your application can then be deployed in one of four typical means:
1. BlackBerry App World™
BlackBerry App World is the marketplace provided by RIM to deploy your apps, and is considered to be a premier vehicle to distribute your application. Mike has written a terrific summary of some of the new features available in BlackBerry App World 2.0.
2. Over The Air (OTA) download through the BlackBerry Browser
If you’ve developed a BlackBerry Widget, I’m guessing that you’re probably a web developer, which means odds are pretty good that you’ve got a website. OTA deployment can be done through the BlackBerry® Browser, where the user will download the application from your website. Since the browser comes installed by default on every single BlackBerry smartphone sold today, you have a tremendous amount of consumers out there that are only a few clicks away from downloading your application!
When deploying OTA, all you’ll need to do is host the JAD file with the respective COD files for your application and then point the URL to the JAD file. It’s the same thing as posting a file to download on a website – just use a href=”[path to my jad file]” to link to your JAD and allow the user to download the application.
Take a look at how this feature is set up in this fantastic video going over the OTA download through the BlackBerry Browser. Also, here’s a great KB article outlining the steps needed to download over WAP.
3. OTA Push via BlackBerry Enterprise Server
A BlackBerry Enterprise Server administrator is able to push applications to any BlackBerry smartphone connected to that particular BlackBerry Enterprise Server. One thing to note is that utilizing BlackBerry Enterprise Server Push to send applications down to BlackBerry smartphones is only available via corporate environments, since it requires a BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
The steps for creating a software configuration to deploy third-party apps from a BlackBerry Enterprise Server over a wireless network can be found in this knowledge base article. Additionally, here’s a great video highlighting how to accomplish this type of deployment and some of the interesting features and options available to you!
4. BlackBerry Desktop Manager
You can use this option for most applications; it uses the BlackBerry Application Loader that is installed as part of the BlackBerry Desktop Software. An automated application installer installs the application’s .alx file locally on the user’s computer. The user then navigates to the file and installs it on their BlackBerry smartphone.
A detailed step by step guide is available through this video on the BlackBerry Developers Website.
For further reading, Andre Fabris has written a fantastic tutorial outlining all of the deployment models available for you to distribute your application to market as quickly and effectively as possible.
Depending on which deployment model – or combination of models – you choose, there will likely be a few prerequisites that you’ll need to set up in order to effectively make use of them. We’ve provided a document which summarizes the methods and the prerequisites that you’ll have to set up before leveraging them.
For more information and demonstrations on how to leverage these deployment mechanisms, I’d encourage you to take a look at the BlackBerry Developer Video Library, where there are several videos that provide in-depth explanations of the entire deployment process for a BlackBerry Application. I’d like to strongly encourage everyone to keep up the hard work, and leverage these deployment methods to get your apps into consumers’ hands!