“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Recently, four BlackBerry® platform developers visited the offices of Nitobi, the company behind the PhoneGap open source, cross-platform application framework. The goal: implement support for the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet in PhoneGap. As in any worthwhile endeavor, it was the experience and the road traveled that provided the value.
Recently, I had been concentrating on working with the tinyHippos team on their transition into the BlackBerry development platform, heading towards our grand vision for the next generation of BlackBerry® WebWorks™ tooling. One of the key pieces of that vision is to maintain support for other platforms such as PhoneGap. So of course we quickly whipped out our shiny BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, fired up Ripple and…well, PhoneGap doesn’t support the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. What to do?
We called up our good friends at Nitobi to find out what could be done, and the response was: “Well guys, check it out – PhoneGap is open source.” For those that don’t know, BlackBerry WebWorks has been an open source project since BlackBerry DEVCON 2010. We have been making progress on our open source strategy and processes, including being open in how we operate on the BlackBerry WebWorks codebase. But working on a BlackBerry-sponsored open source project is quite different from contributing to a third party open source. Further, PhoneGap is a framework whose purpose is to ease development of applications to run on multiple mobile platforms, not just the BlackBerry platform.
This was a perfect opportunity to push the bounds internally and show that the BlackBerry development platform is committed to open source, and especially to growing our involvement within the web community as a whole. A few slide decks and phone calls later, a couple of emails up the executive chain, and we had approval to head to Vancouver, sit with the Nitobi guys, and build support for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet into PhoneGap. It was an exciting and liberating experience; internal stakeholders were very supportive and only wanted to ensure we had done our due diligence.
A week later, with a too-expensive hotel breakfast in our bellies, the four of us were ensconced in a Nitobi conference room and working on an open fork of the PhoneGap codebase in GitHub. While not yet a finished product, we made great progress, and are now trying to finish this work off back in the real world of project deliverables. Have no fear – we WILL get it done, and stay involved even afterwards. Check out the progress in GitHub.
I have been with Research In Motion® (RIM®) for nine years and cannot recall any endeavor of this nature occurring in the past. Those three days at Nitobi provided an immeasurably valuable experience for the four of us, as well as for the BlackBerry platform. I can only hope this is a precursor to bigger and better things for BlackBerry development in the open source and web community. Our perspective on the path forward is forever changed.
Thanks to the Nitobi guys for their generous hospitality and the support given to understand the PhoneGap architecture, and answers to all the little questions along the way. Also, many thanks for the insight into your own perspectives on the mobile space and how web technology can and will play a key role. (The free beer was nice too.)