PlayBook Development Incentive

The BlackBerry PlayBook is an indie developer’s dream. A brand new OS and a new platform, from a large company that’s got the momentum to sell a lot of devices. Free signup (unlike the days of game consoles and megabuck dev kits), an easy revenue model for apps, and to top it all off, the offer of a free PlayBook tablet if you submit an app to their App World store before the end of March.

“But that’s only 3 weeks away. It’s too late to start anything.”

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No it’s not. And I’ll tell you why. The application model for the PlayBook is based on the Flash player and the AIR runtime. This means you can use Flash Builder, an Eclipse-based IDE, to build an app. It would sure help if you were already familiar with ActionScript, but even if you’re not, it’s a JavaScript style language that’s easy to pick up, and Flash Builder gives you a lot of help along the way.

The steps involved in building an app for the PlayBook are outlined here, for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

If you run into any trouble or have any questions along the way, the RIM support forums for Tablet OS developers are right here, and there’s enough traffic that questions are answered quickly.

So is 3 weeks enough? Well here’s some inspiration.

I was off work for the last 2 weeks, taking some time off for the birth of our daughter Allison. During some of my down time (those rare moments when everyone else was sleeping) I started a simple application to help out with a household task that we always mean to do but never seem to get around to: planning out meals for the week.

I build an AIR application that presents at a glance your meals for the week and makes it easy to plan out. It’s probably not for everyone but it’s something I’ve always wanted, and now I’ve built it. In AIR, in less than 2 weeks, and for the PlayBook. And since it’s AIR, I can run it on my desktop, in a browser, I can bring it to Android, and soon iOS.

This cross device portability is part of what makes the PlayBook the indie developer’s dream. The free tablet offer is a great incentive to jump in, and once you’ve built something interesting, it’s so easy to make it available to hundreds of millions of users on whatever channels you want, with the same code base.

One specific bit of information I wanted to pass on is a solution to a problem I had when I was setting up my Flash Builder / PlayBook development environment. If you install FB Burrito (that’s the codename for the beta version of Flash Builder) and then install the PlayBook SDK (0.9.3 in my case), and then find that you can’t choose the PlayBook as a target for a new mobile project, you may have run into a problem that I ran into. I believe it’s related to permissions, because the solution in my case was to uninstall Flash Builder, reinstall Flash Builder, and then run Flash Builder as Administrator (apparently that last step is important).