Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has announced new software tools to make it easier to develop applications and graphical user interfaces for its mobile handsets.
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The announcement was welcomed by more than 1,300 software experts at the Blackberry Developer Conference in San Francisco.
Jim Balsillie, RIM's co-CEO, said the firm had been working on the new tools for more than a year. Delegates at the Blackberry Developer Conference suggested some of the announcements were "about time", a view Balsillie acknowledged, saying, "We heard you."
The new tools affect both Java and Web development environments. They include support for Open GL ES, Support, a Java GUI builder and a theme studio to help developers build slick new front pages for Blackberrys.
Jim Balsillie also announced that RIM would in future sell such interfaces and widgets on its App World online store, giving developers a chance to earn money from their creativity.
The moves also takes RIM closer to the consumer market, but Balsillie and other RIM officials were at pains to stress that the tools apply as much to development of enterprise software as to consumer applications.
Key for the future is better support for graphics-intensive applications through support for OpenGL ES. This allows Java developers to speed up development of 3D graphics applications, such as 3D games, for smartphones running Blackberry OS 5.0 and higher.
OpenGL ES support is available through an update to the Blackberry Java software development kit; a beta version is available online.
RIM also said it would add a graphical user interface builder to the Blackberry Java plug-in for the Eclipse development environment. This will let programmers speed up development and localisation of complex user interfaces by switching between coding and an improved simulation engine that mimics different Blackberry smartphones. The GUI builder is expected to be available in mid 2010.
RIM hopes developers will use the new free theme studio to develop a rich set of front pages that users will download to customise their phones.
The studio supports theme design, illustration and animation for smartphones running Blackberry OS 4.2.2 and higher. These include the new Storm2 and Bold 9700 smartphones.
Developers will be able to import Adobe Photoshop files, add ringtones and build screen transitions such as zooming, sliding, wiping and fading within themes for smartphones running Blackberry OS 5.0 and higher.