BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Released, Native Email Arrives

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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