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This new set of tools is a big step forward for RIM, which needs to get into the game with Apple and Google. Getting developers excited to build for BlackBerry has proven difficult, as exhibited by the slow growth of BlackBerry Apps World (which only recently surpassed 10,000 apps). Giving developers better and Web-specific tools is going to help make it more attractive to those who like to get their code on.
WebWorks offers a number of new tools, including the Web Application Packager 1.5. This tool helps developers package their Web apps in the same way that they would package Java-based applications. It includes the same file formats and the ability to publish them over the Web, via BlackBerry App World, via over-the-air updates and even through BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
New BlackBerry Web APIs will give developers the access then need to core BlackBerry functions and integrate their own apps across key BlackBerry features, such as the contacts list, phone dialer and more. RIM says, for example, that developers will be able to create apps that allow end users to send a text message without leaving the third-party application.
Last, WebWorks includes Web Plug-Ins 2.5. The plug-ins will help developers merge Web-based content with that stored on the handset itself. For example, they will allow Web-based data to be downloaded and cached locally on a BlackBerry handset in the background.
"BlackBerry developers have discovered the value of building web applications that can leverage the unique characteristics of the BlackBerry Platform, such as running in always-on mode and integrating with native BlackBerry applications," said David Yach, CTO for Software at Research In Motion in a prepared statement.
"The new BlackBerry WebWorks platform takes the power of existing web tools and enhances and adds to them in order to allow developers to build sophisticated applications using their existing HTML5 skill sets with no compromise in functionality or performance."
RIM has also made a new commitment to open source. It is working with the open source community to make sure developers have access to and can contribute to the WebWorks Web application platform and tool sets.
The bottom line here is that these new tools give developers far more control over essential BlackBerry features, which will allow them to more fully integrate their own applications with the BlackBerry operating system. This will result in apps that are easier for BlackBerry customers to use