LAS VEGAS — A visitor from Mars dropping in on the Consumer Electronics Show this week might easily assume Research In Motion is the leader of the mobile pack based on the company’s enormous booth here. But RIM, once the brightest of mobile device providers, has seen its star fade with the rise of the iPhone and competitive Android smartphones along with the well-chronicled failure of its PlayBook tablet which the Canadian company recently discounted to $299 to help move stagnant inventory.
Problems aside, RIM officials here were happy to have some good news to talk about, the pending release of the PlayBook 2.0 operating system next month that brings native email and calendaring and a raft of other features like integration of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) right into user’s inbox. PlayBook 2.0 will be available as a free download to current PlayBook owners.
RIM also said with PlayBook 2.0 it will give Android developers a way to bring their apps to the PlayBook though they must go through a more rigorous approval process than Google’s more open Android market employs as the company says it wants to weed out malware and security risks.
Access to and management of email is what made BlackBerry smartphones so indispensable to corporate road warriors and those features have been greatly improved in PlayBook 2.0 which lets you see multiple accounts in your inbox. For example, in a demo here a RIM staffer showed how he could get his company email and personal Gmail email on the PlayBook.
A developer's build of PlayBook 2.0 was released a few months ago and TabTimes published an in-depth review of the software last November.
Asked what’s the one message RIM wants to convey to customers and potential customers here at CES, Product Manager, Quinn Ellerbeck didn’t hesitate: “PlayBook is here to stay.”
When the PlayBook shipped, you could in fact get to your email and calendar, but you needed to link the tablet with a BlackBerry smartphone, a far from elegant solution. But with those basic features finally available from within the PlayBook, RIM has developed more worthwhile tricks in PlayBook 2.0 for those with both the tablet and BlackBerry phone.
Ellerbeck demonstrated, for example, how BlackBerry phones can be used as a remote control to the PlayBook to drive a presentation on the tablet or even a larger screen connected to the PlayBook. With a few clicks you can also move content you might have on the BlackBerry such as PowerPoint, Excel files or pictures and move them over to the PlayBook for easier viewing.
“We also offer true multitasking,” said Ellerbeck, showing how easy it is to use the PlayBook’s tabs to go from the inbox to creating a new email or to an earlier draft you might want to review.
On the more recreational side, the PlayBook’s BlackBerry Video Storefront will offer new releases for purchase or rent the same day they come out on DVD. While a full movie length download can take a while, RIM says PlayBook users will be able to begin watching as soon as the download begins.