On the Move – BlackBerry 10 WebWorks powered by Apache Cordova

Web Development

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I am starting to realize that blog writing is similar to any other mental or physical exercise: it takes some time to knock the rust off if you take a break. Given how hard that first sentence was to write, I feel like red dust should be falling out of my ears. My robot vacuum cleaner needs to work harder to earn its keep anyway.

I do have a good excuse for my absence (I am not sure that Kinsella would agree). My first blog in a little while now comes to you from the sunny shores of Northern California. I have joined the (relatively) small but extremely dedicated contingent of BlackBerry employees fighting the good fight in the Bay Area. The relocation was no small task, let me tell you. Not the least of which was the four day drive from Toronto. I-80 is brutally efficient at getting you from A to B. But for some large segments, it is just brutal. Our dogs were also very efficient at letting us know when our travel day was (or should be) at its end.

But now I am setup here on the west coast, and fully in the middle of yet another move. If you missed BlackBerry Jam Americas in Orlando last month – nothing less than a cross-continent move will be accepted as excuse – you missed a very important BlackBerry 10 WebWorks roadmap session where we discussed the move of BlackBerry 10 WebWorks to use Apache Cordova at its core.

Fundamentally, the web is cross platform. While it is certainly not write-once/run-everywhere, the web does allow for a lot of reuse of code and assets. As mobile browser vendors continue to evolve and implement the various web technology standards, the amount of work to port an application becomes smaller and smaller. We are seeing web-based mobile applications become a much bigger piece of the total app pie. A large part of that is due to the success of Apache Cordova, which is the open source engine that powers Adobe’s Phonegap.

Our goal with BlackBerry 10 WebWorks is to ensure that we embrace the true philosophy of the open web, and empower our development community with the best tools and frameworks available to create rich web-based mobile applications. Moving BlackBerry 10 WebWorks to be based on Apache Cordova is a huge step in this direction and provides many benefits to our development community.

We are building support for BlackBerry 10 right into the core Apache Cordova project. This will allow Adobe PhoneGap developers to easily target BlackBerry 10 alongside other platforms for their mobile applications. BlackBerry 10 platform specific APIs will also be available as plugins for Apache Cordova (e.g. BBM, invocation, etc.)

As the center of gravity for packaged web applications, Apache Cordova garners a lot of attention from tooling and framework communities that will build their solutions to work with Apache Cordova. Having BlackBerry 10 as a core platform in Apache Cordova will help to ensure BlackBerry 10 WebWorks developers will be able utilize these tools as well.

To be clear, there are some differences in how you work with an Apache Cordova based application, specifically in terms of the command line tools, and some API signatures. All existing BlackBerry 10 WebWorks functionality does still exist, but the API signatures might be slightly different. Full documentation and porting guides will be available. The key thing to understand is that we have full compatibility built in. Applications built with an existing BlackBerry 10 WebWorks SDK WILL work on all 10.X code lines and new ones moving forward.  Similarly, apps built with the new Apache Cordova approach will ALSO work on all 10.X code lines.

I am really excited about being part of the Apache Cordova community, and about the benefits and opportunities this will bring for our dedicated BlackBerry 10 WebWorks developers. Stay tuned to this blog and the developer portal for news on how the move to Apache Cordova progresses.

About Ken W

Ken is the Senior Product Manager for the WebWorks group at BlackBerry. He is responsible for WebWorks tooling and is heavily involved in the Open Source projects at github.com/blackberry and the Apache Cordova community. Ken has a particular interest in trying to bring the internal and external BlackBerry development communities closer together.

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