This morning at DevCon Americas in San Francisco, RIM took the wraps off of the much rumored, oft-leaked BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps. That mouthful, which launched as part of PlayBook OS 2.0, “[allows] developers to quickly and easily bring Android applications to BlackBerry PlayBook tablets,” according to RIM’s press release.

RIM seems to be leaning heavily on Android to keep developers interested in its platform, which is clearly in transition with the launch of the BBX OS and the new Android-focused tools. The Developer Beta of PlayBook OS 2.0 includes a suite of tools geared around bringing Android apps:

  • BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps
  • BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools (ADT)
    • Extension of the Eclipse Android development environment to support the PlayBook, including BlackBerry PlayBook Simulator for testing and debugging of apps
  • BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps
    • Step-by-step Web tool allows devs to test their apps for compatibility with the PlayBook, and repackage and sign their apps for submission to BlackBerry App World
PlayBook OS 2.0 Beta also supports Adobe Air 3.0, Adobe Flash 11, WebGL (3D graphics acceleration), and the new PlayBook Native SDK with the forthcoming Cascades Framework.  According to RIM,
The Native SDK allows developers to build high-performance, multi-threaded, native C/C++ applications and enables developers to create advanced 2D and 3D games and other apps with access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open AL, as well as device specific APIs. Applications developed with the Native SDK will run today on the BlackBerry PlayBook and will be forwardly compatible on BBX-based tablets and smartphones.
Cascades unleashes a new breed of design centric mobile applications and provides developers with an exceptional feature set for creating visually stunning interfaces with custom layouts, animations, effects and 3D graphics. These features, combined with a strong set of built-in core user interface components, will make it easy to build beautiful native applications with innovative user interfaces for the current BlackBerry PlayBook and future BBX-based tablets and smartphones. Cascades is scheduled to be made available in beta later this fall.
Native SDK, heavy Adobe integration, a new graphics-heavy UI framework and Android app support? Seems like the folks up in Waterloo finally get that their customers – be they consumers or enterprise folks – want multimedia on their mobile devices. What remains to be seen is whether or not RIM’s catch-up strategy is too little, too late.