BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Released, Native Email Arrives

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-02-21 Print this article Print

RIM has released its Blackberry PlayBook OS 2.0 software update, which includes built-in email and other much-requested features.

As expected, Research In Motion began pushing out its long-awaited PlayBook software upgrade Feb. 21.

PlayBook OS 2.0 includes a number of features demanded by users ever since the 7-inch tablet made its debut in April 2011. These include built-in email, calendar and contacts; a variety of new apps; and social-networking integration with calendar and contacts. The BlackBerry Bridge app, which lets users tether a BlackBerry smartphone to their PlayBook€”the better to view things on the latter€™s larger screen€”has likewise been updated: Now, a BlackBerry can act as a wireless keyboard and mouse for the PlayBook.

A new €œreading view€ for the Web browser offers a streamlined way to read online news articles or Websites with large amounts of text. In a bid to boost the tablet€™s consumer appeal, RIM is also offering a Video Store with new releases for rent or purchase. 

Although the PlayBook gained some early buzz ahead of its release, it subsequently faced an uphill battle for adoption in a market segment dominated by Apple€™s iPad. In December, RIM announced it would take a $485 million charge against its PlayBook inventory, or $360 million after applicable taxes.

In a Dec. 2 statement, RIM cited €œcompetitive dynamics of the tablet market€ and the delay of the PlayBook OS 2.0 upgrade as reasons behind the write-down. €œThe Company now believes that an increase in promotional activity is required to drive sell-through to end customers,€ the statement added. €œRIM will record a provision that reflects the current market environment and allows it to expand upon the aggressive level of promotional activity.€

Despite those anemic sales, the PlayBook continues to play a vital role in RIM€™s current strategy. The tablet€™s operating system is based on QNX, which the Canadian device-maker acquired in 2010. Later this year, in a bid to reassert its position within the smartphone market, RIM will release a line of so-called €œsuperphones€ running the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 operating system.

In a bid to create a sizable apps ecosystem for those BlackBerry 10 devices, RIM executives have been encouraging third-party developers to build apps for the PlayBook, with an eye toward porting those wares to the smartphone platform when it finally hits the market. The shared QNX code-base, they insist, will make that transition a relatively easy one. €œYou may need to make some tweaks, but your code base is preserved,€ Alec Saunders, RIM€™s vice president of developer relations and ecosystem development, told eWEEK in January.

In the meantime, however, RIM can only hope that revamped software will encourage more consumers to take a look at their tablet.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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