Research In Motion said that "thousands" of Android apps are already in the Android player launched one week ago as part of the PlayBook OS 2.0 update.
The company said that the player could help encourage more native app development on the PlayBook. There are currently 10,000 apps in the BlackBerry App World, including the Android apps, making it smaller than even the fledgling Windows Phone platform, which has 65,000 apps in its store.
RIM first announced in March of last year that it would offer software so that PlayBook users could run Android apps.
A lot of developers are looking at adding their apps to the PlayBook Android player as an "on ramp" to the PlayBook, said Martyn Mallick, vice president of global alliances and business development for RIM. It gives them an opportunity to try the platform and see the results in order to inform their decision whether or not to develop natively for it, he said. He said he was surprised at the number of developers who contacted him within the first couple of days of launching the Android player to say that their apps had seen more downloads in a few days on the PlayBook than in the last few months in the Android Market.
Developers have more competition on the Android Market, which has 450,000 apps.
Developers must do some work to move their Android app into the player, including submitting it to RIM for approval. Developers appreciate that because it helps weed out apps that are infringing intellectual property, the executives said. One app was submitted to RIM by ten different people but none of them actually created it, Mallick said. RIM denied the submissions and reached out to the developer to let him know about the activity and invite him to submit the app, he said.
Still, some developers are not doing the work to ensure their Android app suits the PlayBook, making for a low quality user experience. Too many such apps will leave the PlayBook app store with a reputation for low quality apps.
But RIM argues that rather than bring down the overall quality, those apps will simply disappear. "They won't last," Alec Saunders, vice president of developer relations for RIM said. The low-quality apps are already getting comments from users, alerting other shoppers of the poor quality.
None of the developers on a panel discussion hosted by RIM about developing for the PlayBook were interested in simply developing their apps for Android in order to reach PlayBook users. "For serious game developers, the Java framework is not really viable," said Alex Caccia, president of Marmalade, which offers a product for porting apps among the different mobile platforms. His customers are primarily game developers and Java, the basis for Android development, doesn't give them the performance or control they want, he said.
Other app developers, including those with some of the most popular apps on competitive platforms, seem uncertain about the future of the PlayBook. RIM has been working through a drawn out transition to BlackBerry 10, a new operating system that will run on the PlayBook and BlackBerry phones, and uncertainty around that process may be scaring off some developers.
"The conversation we're having with developers is, if they build an app on the PlayBook, it will translate fairly easily to BlackBerry 10," said Saunders.
Developers are also keen to know how many PlayBooks will sell and the roadmap into the future, before making their decision about moving to the platform. "Everyone wants to know that," said Saunders. The company isn't publically releasing those details but suggested it may be sharing more details with some developers.
Some developers are looking at the PlayBook as a precursor to BlackBerry 10, so that they can get used to developing to the platform and then can "pretty seamlessly" port the PlayBook app to 10 when it comes out, Mallck said. "A lot of it is a matter of timing," he said.