BlackBerry Tablet OS – A discussion with Dan Dodge

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As you have likely heard, Mike Lazaridis introduced the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet and BlackBerry® Tablet OS yesterday during his keynote at BlackBerry DEVCON 2010. The BlackBerry Tablet OS – based on technology by QNX Software Systems – has been designed to deliver unparalleled performance in a tablet. In honor of this announcement, we have with us today Dan Dodge, co-founder and CEO of QNX Software Systems, to talk about the BlackBerry Tablet OS and the opportunities it opens up to app developers, web developers and publishers.

Can you tell us a bit about the QNX® Neutrino® operating system?

If I had to sum up the QNX Neutrino OS in one word, it would be architecture. In fact, when you look at the qualities that have made QNX Neutrino so successful — reliability, scalability, performance, portability — they are all a natural product of its microkernel architecture. These qualities are baked into the very core of the OS.

This architecture explains why the QNX Neutrino OS is popular in such a huge variety of applications, from Internet routers to in-car infotainment systems. In fact, you’ve probably encountered QNX Neutrino today without even knowing it. It’s part of everyday life – being used to control power stations, automate TV broadcasts, and even to help ensure that your food is safe to eat. Now we are leveraging the flexibility and proven reliability of this architecture in the new BlackBerry Tablet OS.

What are some of the key features of the BlackBerry Tablet OS that our application developers need to know?

First off, you can develop some really cool apps for BlackBerry PlayBook using Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Flash, and HTML5. Under the hood, we have a 1GHz dual core processor, accelerated 3D graphics, HD video, and a 7″ multi-touch widescreen. Think of the potential for applications that can combine all these technologies!

Of course, since the BlackBerry Tablet OS seamlessly pairs with BlackBerry® smartphones, the types of things that customers have come expect in terms of enterprise-grade mobility features are available to BlackBerry Tablet OS applications.

Flexibility is in the very DNA of the BlackBerry Tablet OS. We’ve designed it to easily support additional runtime frameworks and virtual machines. For instance, you can expect to see a virtual machine that supports BlackBerry® 6 Java applications.

From a tools perspective, you can use standard Adobe products such as Flash Builder for application development and debug directly on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. For applications that require access to the native OS environment, developers can develop and port C/C++ applications and also take advantage of the QNX® Momentics® Tool Suite, which is based on the Eclipse standard. The BlackBerry Tablet OS provides built-in interfaces to integrate the rich graphical application environment with underlying native code.

We know that the BlackBerry Tablet OS is built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. What are some of the key advantages that QNX Neutrino brings to the table?

First and foremost, with the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture, every application, device driver, networking stack, and virtual machine runs in memory-protected user space. As a result, the BlackBerry Tablet OS can provide a resilient, self-healing environment in order to protect applications from hurting one another or the OS itself. And that’s exactly what you want when running software from a large community of developers.

The QNX Neutrino architecture can also support true multitasking on multicore hardware — in fact, its multicore prowess has been performance-proven in the world’s highest-capacity routers. As a result, it can run multiple applications simultaneously, while delivering very high performance. Multitasking might be new to other tablet platforms, but for us, it’s bred in the bone.

What was the most exciting aspect of this project?

That’s easy: creating something that is more than the sum of its parts. Over the years, QNX and Research In Motion® have developed phenomenal strengths in their respective domains. This project provided an opportunity to bring those strengths together on a single platform — and I believe we’ve succeeded brilliantly. Because our technologies are so complementary, and because our cultures are so compatible, we’ve been able to create a tablet OS that surpasses anything on the market today.

Dan, we have heard about how the QNX Neutrino OS already powers solutions in a variety of challenging environments. What is your favorite story around where it is being used?

Honestly, I couldn’t pick just one. The QNX Neutrino OS controls medical devices that save lives, in-car systems that find the nearest Starbucks, and vision systems that helped build the International Space Station. Some of these systems are incredibly important and others are simply cool — but they’re all immensely gratifying.

Thanks for taking time to talk to us today, Dan. I know that I can’t wait to see the great applications that get developed for the BlackBerry Tablet OS. For those of you interested in learning more about the new BlackBerry Tablet OS, check out the materials and sign up for the upcoming webinar on BlackBerry DevZone – and watch our BlackBerry Developer’s Blog for more details coming soon!

BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK Registration

About Mike Kirkup

Mike Kirkup is the Director for the Developer Relations program at Research In Motion (RIM), which is responsible for managing the technical relationships and programs for RIM’s developer community worldwide. Mike and his team work with RIM’s developer community to provide support and guidance as developers work to integrate their applications to the BlackBerry platform. Mike joined RIM in 2001 as a Security Software Developer in RIM’s Wireless Security Group. As part of the Wireless Securty group, Mike contributed to the development of the BlackBerry Cryptography API, S/MIME and PGP implementations. Mike holds a Masters of Management Science and a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

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