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 PlayBookthe better to view things on the latters larger screenhas likewise been updated: Now, a BlackBerry can act as a wireless keyboard and mouse for the PlayBook.
A new reading 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 tablets 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 Apples 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 competitive dynamics of the tablet market and the delay of the PlayBook OS 2.0 upgrade as reasons behind the write-down. The Company now believes that an increase in promotional activity is required to drive sell-through to end customers, the statement added. RIM 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 RIMs current strategy. The tablets 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 superphones 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. You may need to make some tweaks, but your code base is preserved, Alec Saunders, RIMs 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.