The success of the new BlackBerry models such as Pearl, Curve, Bold and Storm has allowed RIM (Research in Motion) to the consumer smart phone market and faces Apple’s iPhone as an application platform. If you have ignored the BlackBerry platform because it was too business-oriented for your applications, it might be time to specifically target the BlackBerry. This is how you start.
It’s Java time:
BlackBerry development for all recent models is done exclusively in Java. So, if you are not a strong Java programmer, this is the time to update your Java programming skills. (C # programmers will find the transition to Java quite easy, the languages are very similar in most ways.) However, do not learn about the latest Java features because the BlackBerry platform is built on Java Micro Edition (Java ME), which in turn is a derivative of Java version 1.3. So forget about all the nice (but useful) language functions that have been introduced in Java 1.5 – generic, enumerations, etc. – You can not use them in BlackBerry programming. You can not use most of the library classes you know, they just do not exist. A small subset of the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) classes is supported, as well as a number of BlackBerry-specific classes.
Java Micro Edition?
Once you’ve cleaned your Java, you should spend some time understanding the Java ME platform, formerly known as Java 2 Micro Edition or J2ME, for short. You must understand the concepts of configurations and profiles, and in particular the CLDC and MIDP standards. You can find lots of information about this in several books and on Sun’s Java development site.
The BlackBerry platform:
After learning about Java ME, it’s time to explore the BlackBerry platform. The BlackBerry platform is based on CLDC and includes support for MIDP 2.0. However, a large number of BlackBerry-specific classes are also available. This brings you to the first question that you find: are you going to write a BlackBerry application or an MIDP application? In an MIDP application, you are limited to using only the APIs represented by the CLDC and MIDP standards. Your application runs on the BlackBerry and most mobile phones, but you can not use any of the BlackBerry’s special features. You can use any MIDP compatible development tool, such as Sun Java Wireless Toolkit for CLDC (formerly known as J2ME Wireless Toolkit), to create your applications.
Most application developers choose to create BlackBerry-specific applications. This means learning the BlackBerry-specific APIs, including the new user interface classes, and using the BlackBerry Java Development Environment (JDE) to develop your applications. The JDE, which can be downloaded for free, works with the standard Java Software Development Kit and provides you with all the necessary tools to create, organize, test and debug BlackBerry applications. You do not even need a BlackBerry handheld because the JDE contains a fully equipped BlackBerry device simulator. A complete set of JavaDocs is included that describes all the classes and interfaces that are available to programmers.
After you have downloaded and installed the JDE, you want to read the developer guides that come with the JDE and view the sample applications associated with the JDE. Then start your development by writing some simple applications to get an idea of the APIs and BlackBerry utilities.
Purchase a BlackBerry handheld device:
Although you can develop and test your applications for free, you need to run the application at a certain time on a real BlackBerry calculator. This will cost you money, of course, so it is not something you want to do until you take on the task of writing BlackBerry applications seriously. The tests on the device are crucial to ensure that the application works correctly, because the simulator is not a perfect emulation system.
If you are really serious about developing BlackBerry applications, consider signing up for one of the BlackBerry developer programs for additional support and early access to new devices and APIs. You should also explore the other sources for RIM BlackBerry developers. There are also forums and third-party books available to help you get to know the BlackBerry platform.
BlackBerry programming is not difficult if you know something about Java and understand the limitations and limitations of the underlying Java ME platform. You have to learn a new set of APIs and use new development tools, but in the end it’s just another type of Java programming.