Can PlayBook OS 2.0 save the platform?
RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet hasn't been getting any respect, but this may soon change once BlackBerry OS 2.0 is made available. PlayBook owners will finally get a native e-mail application, a Personal Information Manager app as well as a contacts app.business Updated: Feb 21, 2012 17:41 IST
UPDATE: The PlayBook OS 2.0 is now currently available for download. Just "check for updates" on your BlackBerry PlayBook.
RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet hasn't been getting any respect, but this may soon change once BlackBerry OS 2.0 is made available.
The once promising yet much maligned slate has been ridiculed for lacking BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), native email and calendar applications. It has been heavily discounted, dangled in front of developers as bait, and 400 of them were recently given away by Ellen DeGeneres as party favours for her live audience.
The long awaited software update does bring a slew of improvements to the PlayBook and introduces some features that should have been present a year ago when the device first launched.
PlayBook owners will finally get a native e-mail application, a Personal Information Manager app as well as a contacts app. These are business critical apps for RIM's core users and available on most competing tablets.
PlayBook OS 2.0 also brings improved BlackBerry Bridge connectivity that will allow recent BlackBerry smartphones to be used as remote controls for the tablet for the playing back of media such as video, slideshows and presentations.
During a demo at last month's CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Jonathan Wong, Senior Product Manager for RIM, showed me some off the new apps.
The most impressive was Citrix Receiver, which allowed the PlayBook to run Windows applications such as PowerPoint, Office or Outlook.
Also demoed was the Android App Player that should be able to run many Google Android applications on the PlayBook and expand the library of apps for the tablet.
RIM also confirmed that they are going after the best mobile apps in other platforms and getting them ported to the PlayBook so that users will have more options to choose from.
This is great news for existing PlayBook owners, but whether this functionality will make the tablet enticing enough for new customers remains to be seen.
When the PlayBook launched a year ago, it was in a class of its own. It was a handsome, business grade device with a promising new operating system and a fast multi-core processor and a it was designed for enterprise users.
At 7-inches in diameter it is extremely portable, well-built and was nowhere near Apple's radar as a potential threat. This was because RIM innovated and created its own space without resorting to copying the iPad like many others did.
A year later, the PlayBook may be getting smarter and more useful, but it is also facing a staggering amount of competition from all sides.
Competition has grown
Now Apple is readying to drop the hammer on its next iPad which will take the lion's share of the attention, and profits, for months after its announcement.
Samsung has the tablet market covered from the 5.3-inch size with their Galaxy Note and all the way up to the 7-inch, 7.7-inch, 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab sizes.
Most of the other Android tablet makers are fighting it out in the 10.1 screen category but we are seeing growing number of 7-inch tablets come in at lower price points.
Cheaper Android powered eBook readers like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Kobo's Vox, which look almost identical to the PlayBook, also offer more functionality at a cheaper price, even if they are mainly for reading books.
RIM's little tablet has one good chance left at making a big impression.
It is make or break time for the PlayBook, and RIM will need to rely on its loyal users to kick start interest in the tablet and its new suite of software apps.