Over the past few years, we have witnessed the explosive growth of two phenomena in software technology: mobile applications and social networking. While both had their origins in the last millennium, it took several years of incubation and evolution for each to mature enough for mass market appeal. Today, there is no doubt that these two incredible concepts have forever altered how we interact with machines and each other.
Thus far, most mobile applications have been islands of simple utility, operating in an isolated environment with only the occasionally connection to an outside world. The strength of such apps has derived from their near-constant availability to the user due to the extreme portability of the smartphone devices.
Social networking on the other hand evolved as a web-based technology, accessible primarily through browsers. The interfaces have traditionally been geared toward desktop browsers, making their use on the smaller screens of smartphones a challenge. Eventually, mobile apps for the social networks were created with interfaces tailored for the portable devices, making it much easier for people to share information and stay in constant contact.
Now, the merger of social networking and mobile applications is underway, promising to further reshape the growing bond between humans and machines. With the introduction of the BlackBerry™ Messenger (BBM) SDK, mobile app developers can now leverage the social communication pathways established by the BBM ecosystem. This opens up tremendous new possibilities for sharing information, increasing collaboration and providing exciting new ways of interacting with each other.
BBM is unique in that it is built for mobile computing. It’s not a desktop or web application ported as an afterthought to mobile devices. I love that it is always on, always connected, always available. You don’t have to log into it. It’s just always there for you to use. It also leverages BlackBerry’s famously secure network helping to ensure the information you share is only viewed by its intended recipients.
One of the great features of the BBM SDK is the support for “Invite to Download” messages. This allows one user to request one or more of their contacts to download a BBM-enabled app so they can interact using the app. The obvious use case for this is a multi-player game, but there are many other possibilities including business apps. If nothing else, “Invite to Download” is a great mechanism for viral marketing of an app.
I’ve been developing software for more than 75% of my life, predominantly applications for desktop PCs and servers. More recently, I have expanded my skills into web applications and mobile app development. I have been a loyal BlackBerry™ user for over eight years now, and began developing BlackBerry™ apps last year. I currently have two apps in the BlackBerry™ App World: Switch, a time-tracking app for BB smartphones, and EZTiler, a seamless photographic tile generator for the PlayBook. I am very excited about the prospects of integrating the BBM functionality into some of my current and future apps.
Disclaimer: RIM is currently sponsoring the “BBM Apps Hackathon” contest with the prize being a trip to New York City to attend their Hackathon event. This pitch is a part of my entry into this contest. While the publishing of this article was influenced by this contest, my feelings and opinions about the topic were not.