SANTA CLARA, Calif. Research in Motion showed working though still glitchy prototypes of its iPhone-like Storm handset at a developers' conference here where it sketched out its future software direction. One thing not expected on the road map anytime soon—availability of open source versions of Blackberry code.
RIM engineers gave an hour-long presentation about Java application programming interfaces the company is embracing. In a Q&A session afterwards, one developer asked if RIM will make its source code available, following the lead of the Android software developed by Google and partners.
"We do have an open source management team that is investigating this," said Cassidy Gentle, a senior RIM software developer. "I would expect some of our Eclipse or Mobile Tools for Java could be made available on an open source basis, but as for our APIs or other software—that's a pretty big leap," Gentle said.
In discussions after the session, one third party developer said he would like to see the RIM source code to better understand the company's technical thinking, root out bugs and get access to any secret APIs. Others said they don't have a strong need for the source code.
What is on the road map is the company's next iteration of its Blackberry software, version 4.7, tailored for the Storm handset. The device uses a capacitive touch screen that provides force feedback and an accelerometer to automatically shift the display between portrait and landscape mode, just like the iPhone.
RIM has defined APIs for the touch interface and the accelerometer which it is making available for use in third party applications. "I'm just waiting for some developer to roll out a labyrinth [pinball] game," Cassidy said demonstrating a virtual pinball rolling around on a Storm phone as he tilted the device back and forth.
The company said it will release the Storm handset within four to six weeks. Verizon will initially sell the phone for use on its network.
Both companies provided demonstrations of Storm prototypes at the conference, but they refused to allow pictures or videos to be taken of the phones because the software still has many glitches. In a short demo of one phone, the device responded erratically to touch screen commands on several occasions, although it never crashed or froze up.
Storm is RIM's first phone to use a touch screen and accelerometer. Unlike most Blackberries it relies on a large capacitive display interface rather than a tiny keyboard.
The demo showed clear video playback of movie clips. The quad-band phone supports 3G but not Wi-Fi networks.
RIM aims to reach beyond its strength in corporate handsets and into new consumer markets, as the Storm's iPhone-like appearance makes clear. The company recently rolled out software to enable the equivalent of its enterprise server software to run on a home PC so users can retrieve or store media or files in a protected folder on the PC.
Beyond Storm, Cassidy and others detailed a long laundry list of ad hoc Java standards called Java Specification Requests (JSRs) that RIM is considering adopting in the future.
RIM engineers are looking at supporting 3-D graphics, probably through adopting the Java specification for OpenGL ES (JSR 239). The company is also broadly adopting 2-D scalable vector graphics such as SVG Tiny 1.2. It first used SVG in version 4.6 for the Blackberry Bold phone.
"We are looking at doing fairly complete support for SVG in all the places an image needs support in a device," said Liam Quinn, who heads browser development at RIM.
The company is developing an API called SQLite to make more advanced links into corporate or Web databases. RIM is considering adopting other Java standards that would help it deliver more advanced zoom and flash controls for video cameras, improved speech recognition and text-to-speech and better Bluetooth keyboards
RIM has embraced Java mobile standards as the basis for its software since 2002.