BlackBerry PlayBook hacked to run iOS apps, including ours

A clever dev has managed to shoehorn full-blown iOS apps onto the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Such App Store titles as Tiny Tower, Super Monkey Ball, TomTom Navigation, Sushi Cat, iFart, Frogger, Galcon, SketchBook, and a few others. Oh, and the iMore app, of course. This has been made possible through a kind of iOS player that a developer has managed to get to work on Windows too. The dev has gone into a few technical details as to how they've pulled off this feat.

The CPU isn't emulated on Playbook (though it is on Windows). It works very similarly to how WINE works to run Windows applications on Linux. The app binary is mapped into memory and imports are resolved to point to my own implementation of the various APIs needed. iOS actually uses a few open APIs already, which Playbook supports just as well (GL ES, and OpenAL). The bulk of the work has been in implementing all of the objective C classes that are required. The ARM code of the applications run as-is - the armv6/v7 support on PB/iDevices are pretty much identical, and the code is designed to run in USR mode. No SWIs, GPIO accesses or any of that kind of shenanigans.

Obviously, this is all well outside Apple's interests, but it may be within RIM's; after all, they made lots of accommodations to bring in Android apps into the BlackBerry ecosystem, and though there's no direct porting of iOS apps, RIM has generally been good about getting cozy with middleware providers that also happen to support iPhone and iPad apps. There's still a lot of work to be done in the emulation environment, so don't expect anything soon. Even if it's polished enough for the public, the dev says "I would like to release to the public, but not sure if I will be able to."

Although the solution to do this isn't publicly available, it poses a fairly grey area for users. During the hayday of PlayBook rooting, there were lots of leaked versions of Android apps floating around, some paid, some not, and if this solution ever goes public, we would likely see a similar boom in app piracy. Those that picked up a PlayBook while it was cheap would be happy to get a bit of added functionality out of it, but I doubt anyone will go after a PlayBook or a BlackBerry 10 device for its iOS app support - just get an iPad, or if you're really married to the 7-inch form factor, hold out for the iPad Mini.

As someone who has put a fair bit of time into the PlayBook, I find it's impressive that the development environment is proving to be this flexible. I was always a fan of the bezel gestures on the PlayBook, and despite all the bad press, the app ecosystem is starting to pick up. Heck, BB10 might even get Jetpack Joyride before Android. What do you guys think the prospects are for BlackBerry 10 and the PlayBook in light of iOS 6? Will RIM actually be able to rope in developers?

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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There are 24 comments. Add yours.

John says:

Where are all the comments. No one is interested in porting your apps with ease to the blackberry ecosystem. This is cash money.

Dirk says:

You are right. No one is interested.

John Peters says:

I'm interested.
QNX is a super powerful OS.
BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 is going to explode as soon as smartphones start selling and we have millions of users. Remember, even now with people knowing BBOS is transitioning to BB10, BlackBerry was still able to sell 10 million phones in one quarter!

General Tech says:

Blackberry has reached to a put up or shut up phase. No one really wants to hear about hopes and aspirations of blackberry, they wanna see the bb10 hardware front and centre anything short of that is for the birds.

John says:

I guess the hardware can handle ios but thats no good we want better

General Tech says:

Its not no good, it basically means that overnight blackberry has caught up with its competitors. All they need is a wonderful looking handset with a sleek design.
Its one thing to go out and try to get developers to work on bb apps its another entirely to tell developers, hey you know that app you already have finished? why dont you submit it to blackberry app world.

mrmartis says:

WOW, you are actually so right. I didn't even realize it but they just have to tell us developers to port it, and I have heard my developer buddies saying how easy it is. A sleek handset design is all they need to bring back the boom, im gonna start porting my android apps, and start looking into building native apps. I hear they also allow C++, not just Java like android.

martinjdub says:

Seriously, this is pretty scary stuff. If BlackBerry10/PlayBook can run Android and iOS within an emulator, this means the Apps race and eco system now belongs to RIM.
Apple : ~500,000 apps
Android : ~250,000 apps
BlackBerry : ~850,000 apps
One device with cross platform access to all apps...killer

John says:

Boom Goes The Dynomite!

Iffy says:

Yep, now the PB will sell by the tens....

Pat MaGroin says:

.........providing the service does not shut down for days and the company doesn't fold up.

PilotPhil81 says:

I guess the blackberry users are wanting something that's a little more like IOS.

Buddy says:

I dont really think true BB users really care about the ios running on the blackberry operating system. I think its more along the lines of the power of the os and maybe to intice non bb users and developers. I mean for the non bb user they see this and they think well hell the playbook can run ALL three major platforms. Can any other mobile device do this?

mrmartis says:

But all other mobile devices can't do this, trust me I have tried to bring android to iOS and iOS back. I was only successful on QNX. I swear if in their falling days blackberry did one smart thing was to buy out QNX, dude this OS is so f********* powerful.

iJobs4 says:

What does the apps have to do with the platform?
Just because I want the iOS apps on a blackberry doesn't mean I want the OS as well...

Hamp says:

I agree with Buddy. I am a Blackberry user and frequent Crackberry.com. Now unlike most posters that you may find, I am more mature and don't feel the need to bash, hate or 'troll' forums just to say who/what is better. Just because I use a certain OS/platform doesn't give me the right to bash others. It's a matter of choice for me. I could care less what looks good or is 'popular' or has more apps. It's all about functionality to suit MY needs.
Anyway, I just wanted to say (and I'm only speaking from an observer's/insider's POV), most BB users care about whether their equipment can USE particular apps and features, not who is better. You have those that feel they speak for everyone (trolls and naysayers) and their opinions need to be taken with a grain of salt (or pinch). Thanks for reading this with an open mind. Not all 'other' consumer/users are the same.

John says:

If the new BBs can run all the sexy iOS apps AND maintain functionality, who would tolerate the locked down Apple culture? This could be huge.

rkevwill says:

I know I am in the crazy minority, but I still think Apple should buy Rim. Their patents would fit, and they could really use the secure BES for even more entry into the enterprise. Whether or not they would use BB10 or iOS, frankly is not as important to me, as my querty keys :)

mrmartis says:

Don't you think they tried? RIM doesn't want to even think about selling till after BB10, because it could bring them back to a level to compete with Apple and Android or worst case bring up their value for a higher payout if someone buys them out.

CrazyOne says:

I believe that BlackBerry "new OS" is powerfull but it cant compete with what Apple has today. If Apple continues with this non-innovative spread, then we are going to see that "come back" they're talking about.... Just saying, hands down, they already got a device that can run it all... no bs....

JCRocky5 says:

Apple won't do anything for a while because they have already ripped off Andriod & Jailbreak stuff & there running out of things to take & change a little.
Over the years all I have seen is Apple take someone else's idea & change it up a tad & reap the rewards by loyal fans.
Andriod in the other hand gets slandered by said fans for using an icon that looks similar, or something the functions in the same way.
I'm still waiting for quick reply! On my iPhone, 4 bloody years I have been waiting to be exact, thank god for the JB community they are the only thing keeping me here & all the money I have spent in the AppStore.

JCRocky5 says:

I foresee a battle of the wallets soon, Apple trying to buy his silence & Rim trying to buy hit work lol ether way he gets rich.
Just hope he give it to rim, because what holds me to Apple is the apps.