Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 11:32 am.
Next year’s BlackBerries will run Android apps… but not the way you think
Future BlackBerry phones running on RIM’s QNX platform will be able to run apps built for Google Android, Bloomberg’s Hugo Miller and Olga Kharif report. This makes sense, but it’s probably not as good as it sounds.
RIM has already announced plans to offer an Android “app player” to run on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, so it seems obvious that future BlackBerry phones would also be able to run the Android emulator. Especially because the only Android apps that RIM initially planned to support were Android phone apps, and not Android “Honeycomb” tablet apps. (RIM announced this in March, by the way, and it still hasn’t shipped.)
But unless RIM has drastically changed its approach, there’s still a big difference between this — BlackBerry devices sort-of running Android apps — and what a real Android phone can do.
First and foremost, RIM has said that it won’t be including Google’s Android Market — where all the zillions of Android apps live — on its devices.
Instead, had only planned to offer a separate Android section in its BlackBerry App World. This means that the only Android apps you’d be able to get are the ones with developers who went through the trouble of submitting their app to RIM’s special store.
RIM has said: “Developers will simply repackage, code sign and submit their BlackBerry Java and Android apps to BlackBerry App World.” Apps will have to be approved by RIM, and then they will be distributed through the BlackBerry app store. My guess is that many/most Android developers will not bother.
RIM has also warned that Android apps won’t run as well on its QNX devices as on real Android phones.
During a RIM earnings call earlier this year, co-CEO Jim Balsillie noted that the virtual machine could have performance issues, and that developers making games or other resource-heavy apps will want to code them specifically for the PlayBook using RIM’s QNX platform and SDK. I assume that will also be the case for Android apps on BlackBerry phones.
Bottom line: Yes, technically, some Android apps may be able to run on new BlackBerry devices next year. But it won’t be the full set of apps, and they may run poorly.
Unless RIM has made dramatic performance improvements, or changed its app distribution model, this will probably be a much better feature in theory than in practice.