BlackBerry Illuminates at Angelhack Boston

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Last weekend, I ventured to my first hackathon — and I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect. The hackathon was called Angelhack, and was hosted simultaneously in New York, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Boston. I attended the Boston event and arrived for the sponsor set-up at 8:00 to put my table together. So far, it felt like a regular trade show.

Then the attendees started to arrive. They were mostly young, college-age people with a smattering of older techies. As people walked by the BlackBerry® table, they would look at the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablets on display and nod politely. After a few minutes, I got the attention of a young man and started asking him what he knew about the BlackBerry and BlackBerry® 10. “Nothing,” he said. I began to talk to him about BlackBerry 10 and the benefits of the new QNX kernel. He was impressed to hear that he could “choose his road” to get to BlackBerry 10, whether his road is HTML5, C++, Adobe® AIR®, or even Android™. I also noticed a few glances from some of the people at the other tables. Interest was building.

At Angelhack, there is a period of about four hours where the attendees can mingle and start to get to know each other. They can talk to the sponsors and even make idea pitches to the other attendees. Then it is time for the sponsors to pitch their platforms. I was the last to pitch; it was the perfect position. I knew that everyone would have heard the other pitches and I could trump them all. I had three minutes and I was determined to make the most of it.

I started with the BlackBerry 10 Jam information showing the growth of BlackBerry applications. I talked about the 254% increase in BlackBerry App World™ storefront vendors and the 240% increase in BlackBerry PlayBook tablet apps in the last quarter. I talked about RIM’s commitment to the developer, how we have seeded over 20,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets and will seed 5,000 BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha prototype devices. I talked about the BlackBerry Developer Relations group and how they are here for the sole purpose of helping developers make fantastic apps for the BlackBerry 10 platform. I could tell interest was building, but my three minutes was almost up, so it was time for the closer – in Q2 2011, BlackBerry App World generated 43% more average daily downloads per app than iOS App Store and 48% more than the Android Market/Google Play.

That seemed to seal the deal. Returning to my sponsor’s table, I now had a full house. People were interested in BlackBerry 10 and how to write applications for the platform. I showed demos of BlackBerry® WebWorks™ apps running on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet to illustrate how quick and responsive it is. Web developers couldn’t believe it. One artist/developer wanted to see how his HTML5 canvas app ran on BlackBerry PlayBook tablet because he had been disappointed in the performance on other platforms. We loaded his app (http://whitchlight.com/sana) and he was awestruck by the speed in which the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet rendered his canvas application. It is just another example of the excellent HTML5 support in the browser on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and BlackBerry 10.

As my first hackathon came to a close, I felt a little sad to be leaving. I had met some incredibly talented and creative people, and I had seen some great apps created — even some works of art. I told myself that although this was my first hackathon, it wouldn’t be my last.

Maybe I’ll see you at the next one?

About Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson – Senior BlackBerry Developer Evangelist – Tom started his career in 1986 with Microsoft Corporation where he was a Program Manager on such products as Windows 3.11, Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95, and Internet Explorer. He was also the creator of the Windows Resource Kit which began that product line. In addition, Tom presented at many trade shows and gave technical presentations with the Microsoft Executive Staff. He left Microsoft in 1995 to form Three Points Consulting with Marianne Reid Anderson and Bob Taniguchi. Three Points focused on bringing the power of the emerging internet technology to everyday life. Tom’s innovative technology solutions played a key role in the successful acquisition of Three Points by TechRx. At TechRx, he acted in the role of CTO until it was acquired by NDC Health of Atlanta, Georgia. In 2004, Tom decided to become a High School Teacher as his primary method of giving back to the community. In 2005 he joined the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA CYBER) where he was awarded the Keystone Award for Innovative Use of Technology in the Class Room. During this time, he also earned a Master’s degree in Software Design through Capella University. In 2009, in addition to teaching, Tom returned to software development creating various web and mobile applications.

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