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RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 adds native email, Android apps

February 21, 2012|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
  • The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet from Research in Motion.
The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet from Research in Motion. (Nathan Olivarez-Giles…)

For the first time, Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet now has a fully functioning email app and it only took RIM 10 months to get here.

On Tuesday, RIM released PlayBook OS 2.0, an update to the tablet's operating system that was originally supposed to be released last year but, like many RIM products recently, was hit with delays.

The PlayBook OS 2.0 downloadable update brings a few new features, but they are key features that RIM is hoping will help boost sales of the slow-selling tablet. The Canadian company has offered multiple price cuts for the PlayBook but that hasn't helped much. Last December, RIM reported a $485-million loss in unsold PlayBook inventory.

The software update also gives the PlayBook the ability to run applications developed for Google's Android operating system, which is a play by RIM to get thousands of new apps up and running on its device as developers have largely shied away from building apps for the slow-selling tablet thus far.

The PlayBook's new native email client, called Messages, will pull in emails from multiple accounts, as well as messages and updates from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, RIM said in a blog post.

Previously, PlayBook owners could only use the included email app if they had their tablet wirelessly synced with a BlackBerry smartphone nearby that could stream email messages to the device.

If PlayBook owners had no BlackBerry phone or maybe took their tablets to the office and left their phones at home, the email app wasn't able to function on its own.

It was a strange omission for RIM given that its phones' email apps are a favorite of enterprise users.

The integration with social networks seen in Message is also added to the PlayBook's Calendar and Contacts apps, with events and contacts from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being pulled into those apps as well, RIM said.

One major feature still missing from the PlayBook, and promised for a future software updated, is BlackBerry Messenger, RIM's free BlackBerry to BlackBerry texting messaging service that is better known as BBM.

RIM's PlayBook OS is essentially a modified version of the company's touch-based QNX operating system, which is also going to be the basis of the new software for BlackBerry smartphones due later this year, known as BlackBerry 10.

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