Posted by: Arik Hesseldahl on November 9, 2009
Blackberry maker Research In Motion is holding its Blackberry Developers Conference in San Francisco today, and is expected to announce some significant enhancements to its platform to give people building software for the device more features.
A few of the new features can be already be found in applications running on Apple’s iPhone: In-application advertising, in-application purchasing, among others. But RIM has one key partnership that Apple doesn’t: Adobe.
The companies will announce today that Adobe and RIM are expanding their existing collaboration, saying the software developers will be able to use Adobe’s Flash — the technology behind such sites as Google’s YouTube and numerous other video sites on the Web — in their applications.
Support for Flash is one of the most demanded features on the iPhone, but as Adobe’s Adrian Ludwig explained in a recent post on a company blog, Apple has yet to allow support for Flash on the iPhone.
In a statement, Adobe said that developers will be able to use the forthcoming Adobe Creative Suite 5, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects, to create graphic experiences for use on the Blackberry. Other Adobe tools, including Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Device Central, will support the creation of Blackberry widgets and content that’s optimized for the Blackberry Web browser.
I spoke with RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie on Friday, and he told me that other new features are coming to Blackberry App World, its application store. He said that the company will soon be adding device themes — software and graphics that change the look and feel of its interface — to the store, which will he said, “effectively double” the number of downloads available, right now numbering about 5,000. Additionally, he said that App World will allow developers to bill users for applications by way of the bill they get from their carrier.
Other features being announced today: New features for location based services. The Blackberry already has pretty good support for location by way of the GPS system of satellites. But GPS sometimes needs, help, especially indoors. To that end RIM is adding support in its applications that will allow developers to use other ways of getting location information into their apps. They can use a method called cell-site geolocation, which is a way to determine a position based on the nearest cell phone towers. Additionally, RIM is adding support for reverse geocoding, which takes GPS coordinates and then converts them into an address. So if the app knows your latitude and longitude, it can then tell you what the nearest address is. Another new feature: Travel time, effectively how long it will take you get where it is you want to go.
One developer taking advantage of the new features is Loopt, whose CEO Sam Altman was to be on stage to announce a new version of its application for the Blackberry that’s designed to help you connect with friends and contacts who may be nearby. The app can update your location in real-time, even when its not directly running in the foreground. A screenshot is at the left.
Finally, I talked with Jeff Bonforte, CEO of Xobni, on Friday, a terrific plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that not only makes your mail highly searchable, but turns every bit of contact information that appears in your email into a super address book. Xobni will today demonstrate the first fruits of the investment it received from RIM’s Blackberry Partners Fund. The Xobni team isn’t making a formal announcement today but was expected to demonstrate its forthcoming Blackberry application. He was kind enough to provide me with a screen shot of what they’re working on. It certainly looks interesting. Among other features Bonforte promises for the Blackberry app is integration of social media contact data from your contacts, meaning that when the app finds a contact information for someone, say in an email signature, it will also go out and find their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter information. He expects the app to see its official release early next year. Xobni on the desktop added Twitter support in September. Seeing as how I’ve struggled to clean up my address book, this just might be an application I would use.