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Review: Blackberry Playbook Development Training

July 29th 2011 | John Dalziel



Review: Blackberry Playbook Development Training

Back in February we paid a visit to Academy Class in London to take a look at their iOS training. The quality of the course really impressed us, so we've been back again to check out their latest course: AIR Development for the Blackberry Playbook.

This is a hectic time to be a Flash developer. In just over a year the appropriate use cases for the platform have changed dramatically. We've seen native web technologies catch up and a new market for mobile devices explode. Adobe's response, with their latest round of tooling, has been to reposition Flash and AIR for cross-platform application development.

Although Android and iOS has dominated much of the news, a quick look at the Open Screen Project will remind you there are plenty more players in this field. The Blackberry Playbook is the first tablet device from Canadian business smartphone giant Research In Motion, and it's a nice piece of kit. It has a good size screen (1024 x 600) and a form factor that is smaller and more portable than the iPad. It feels smooth and responsive, especially when compared to Android tablets. The Playbook runs QNX, a solid and performant microkernel OS used in embedded systems such as cars, military and medical equipment.
Academy Class run a two day course and our trainer again was David Martin. We had a class of ten from mixed industry backgrounds and all had some experience with the Flash Platform. If you are familiar with FlashBuilder (or equivalent) then building AIR apps for the Playbook is almost embarrassingly easy. Within half an hour we had our dev environment configured and a HelloWorld.mxml working. 
Testing is quick, and with provisioning profiles in place, deployment over WiFi to the device is simple - much simpler than native iOS deployment. Frustratingly, only our trainer had a real device so we were testing on a simulator. The simulator through is accurate (it fully emulates QNX in VMWare) but of course much of the device hardware is unsupported. If you're developing on Mac you'll need to factor in the cost of a VMWare licence into your costs. 
Much of the rest of the course was spent writing example code for tablet specific features. In all we looked at basic interaction, touch events, clipboard management, accelerometer, playing movies and managing persistent data using files, shared objects and SQLLite. Adobe and RIM engineers have worked very closely to maximise performance and to ensure all the unique features of the device are available to developers. RIM have provided optimised QNX libraries for AS3. 
Many of the core Playbook apps are AIR apps, so unlike other operating systems AIR apps feel like first class citizens of the device because they are. This should make the Playbook a very attractive platform for Flash developers. 


About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, and

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