Research In Motion has opened the hood and revealed the engine of its next wave of devices, and it’s called BBX.

The new operating system, which takes its name from

RIM’s BlackBerry and QNX mobile platforms, will power future versions of the company’s BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets.

It was demonstrated Tuesday before a large and curious crowd at RIM’s annual DevCon event for application developers in San Francisco. Attendees heard about a raft of new features and initiatives aimed at streamlining app development and jazzing up the user experience for PlayBook and BlackBerry owners.

“With nearly five million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM president and co-CEO. "We're giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications and we’re providing direction on how to best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms converge into our next-generation BBX platform."

A central component of the powerful new platform is also a familiar one: security.

“Its microkernel architecture brings some unique values, so you get reliability and security,” said Dan Dodge, president of QNX, which RIM acquired to build the new platform. “And to the best of my knowledge, we are the only kernel that has a certified secure kernel and a certified safe kernel.”

Dodge, who joined Lazaridis onstage at DevCon, said BBX scored an “almost unheard of” reliability score during certification.

At the same time, an open-standards approach will make it easier for developers to build apps for BBX, Lazaridis said.

“We’re opening up the platform to a wealth of open-source libraries and a wealth of open-source software, and we can really accelerate now,” he said.

At the front end, BBX will boast a smooth, high-performance user experience, thanks in large part to another recent RIM acquisition, TAT (The Astonishing Tribe) of Sweden.

During the first ever public demonstration of TAT’s BlackBerry Cascades UI at DevCon, as a sheaf of photos fluttered across a PlayBook screen and landed, Lazaridis remarked that “It feels like you’re physically interacting with the information.”

Equally impressive was a PlayBook gaming demonstration during which Lazaridis pointed out that other applications were still running in the background.

Also revealed at DevCon:

- RIM has released a beta version of PlayBook OS 2.0 which enables Android developers to port their apps to the tablet, test them for compatibility and submit them to BlackBerry App World (see video).

- A new development program, BlackBerry Jam, will make it easier for developers to collaborate with experts and partners to create profitable apps.

- RIM’s worldwide user base has grown to 70 million from 50 million a year ago.

- While they are fewer in number than Apple and Android apps, RIM apps are downloaded more often than their competitors’ and their developers earn more money on average.

For more on this year’s DevCon, including video of Tuesday’s keynote session, click here.