BlackBerry has released the SDK for its BlackBerry 7 operating system, ahead of the launch of its latest handsets - the Bold 9900 and Bold 9930. As the last version of this OS before BlackBerry moves to QNX next year, it will be interesting to see how much support RIM can drum up for this stop-gap release.
BlackBerry 7 brings such new features as near-field communication, along with smaller updates to the APIs available to developers. There's Open GL ES 2.0 support, for graphics, 720p video recording, a magnetometer (digital compass) for orientation and HTML5 support in the browser. These aren't necessarily stand-out features, but at least RIM is keeping parity with its rivals in most areas.
The SDK also offers a handset simulator, enabling developers to test their applications without access to actual BlackBerry hardware capable of running them. RIM is accepting submissions to its BlackBerry App World prior to the devices release. Getting applications available before the launch of the handsets is a smart plan, as a lack of quality apps can easily kill a fledgling platform in the current, highly competitive, market.
With a successor to BlackBerry 7 already in the works, it's hard to tell how supportive of the BlackBerry platform developers will be. RIM still has a reasonably sizable loyal fanbase, and has built up a lot of good will over the years, but in an age when every smartphone can perform tasks previously the sole domain of the BlackBerry, it's hard to deny that the company is losing its relevance somewhat. BlackBerry 7 certainly has a fight on its hands.