As I prepared to teach the Mobile Application Programming course of the Conestoga College Computer Programmer/Analyst (CPA) program for the fall 2012 school term, I chose the new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and BlackBerry 10 platforms because they are both developer and student-friendly. In this blog post, I will present my top three reasons for choosing the BlackBerry platform.
1. The BlackBerry Platform has excellent HTML5 support
In fall 2012, the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 had an HTML5Test.com score of 373. The recently released OS 2.1 update continued to lead with a score of 411.
Under the mobile category, the upcoming BlackBerry 10 browser has an HTML5Test.com score of 484 – higher than iOS 6 or Android 4.0. TechVibes recently published an article entitled “BlackBerry 10 is going to have the best web browser of any mobile platform”.
The independent HTML5test.com score measures how well the browser supports HTML5, and the new BlackBerry Platform has scored very high. This is great for BlackBerry developers and students who want to test new HTML5 features on a tablet or mobile device. Having excellent HTML5 support means that HTML5 features working on desktop computers will likely work on the tablet or mobile device without recoding. It also means that richer apps can be built using HTML5. More recently, CNET Australia published an article stating that the BlackBerry 10 browser beats every desktop browser.
2. The new BlackBerry Platform has lots of FREE tools and online resources
A computer programming course is effective only when there is a lot of hands-on programming assignments and projects. The new BlackBerry Platform has lots of excellent software development tools and online resources, and the best part is that they are all FREE. Using both free and online tools provides equal opportunities to all students.
All the BlackBerry tools and documentation can be downloaded with ease. Some of the most downloaded free software includes:
- Ripple Emulator plugin for Google Chrome
- VMWare and BlackBerry simulators (Tablet OS, BlackBerry 10 Beta)
- BlackBerry WebWorks SDK and Native SDK (Tablet OS, BlackBerry 10 Beta)
Several online resources were also available, including:
- The Main BlackBerry HTML5 Page
- Provided easy instructions and links to tools, documentation and sample code
- The BlackBerry Support Forums
- Free and up-to-date BlackBerry Jam recordings
- BlackBerry hands-on labs and resources
- To learn about the changes to the new BlackBerry Platform, there are webinars and online sessions available for free
In addition to the free tools and online resources, RIM donated BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphones and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets as part of the BlackBerry Academic Program Canada (http://bit.ly/TFaBur ). These devices allow students to test their apps before final submission and release to the public. At the start of the term, a class survey was conducted, and the survey found that 33% of the class had their own BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and 36% have their own BlackBerry smartphone. In addition, 94% of students were satisfied with their being no mandatory textbook for this course. Furthermore, approximately 33% of students indicated that they will acquire a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on their own. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet WiFi 16 GB currently retails for less than C$130. This price is affordable given that the price of most mandatory textbooks can be over C$100.
3. The new BlackBerry Platform is open, flexible and future-proof
RIM has started to build partnerships with open-source leaders. BlackBerry WebWorks and the Ripple Emulator are shared on GitHub, and many code samples for BlackBerry WebWorks and Cascades are also freely available on GitHub. As of this writing, there are now 330 samples in the BlackBerry GitHub catalog. This allows students to get the latest source code and extend the framework, learn sample code, and customize them to satisfy their project requirements. The new BlackBerry Platform has SDKs on Windows, Linux and MacOS. With this selection, students can use their favorite OS to build their mobile apps.
The new BlackBerry Platform is flexible. It supports many development platforms: HTML5 WebWorks, Native C/C++ and Cascades, ActionScript Adobe AIR, and Java Android Runtime. Although HTML5 and Mobile Web provides the opportunity to build one mobile app code base for multiple platform devices (i.e., Android, BlackBerry and iOS), there are instances where the Native Development option is a better approach. Students who want to build mobile applications other than HTML5 can either port their existing Android applications or build new Native SDK/Cascades applications and make them available on the new BlackBerry Platform.
The new BlackBerry Platform is developer-friendly and student-friendly. Do you believe I made the right choice for using the new BlackBerry Platform to teach mobile application programming? Do you want to know the results of student assignments and projects and how they compare to student projects from the past two years? In Part 2 of this blog post, I will answer these questions with examples of student projects.