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BlackBerry PlayBook getting native email next month, says RIM

Unified inbox incoming - and the ability to use your BlackBerry smartphone as the PlayBook's keyboard...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

Unified inbox incoming - and the ability to use your BlackBerry smartphone as the PlayBook's keyboard...

If you've been holding out for a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet with native email, the wait is coming to an end - email functionality is slated to be added via an OS update arriving next month, according to RIM.

BlackBerry PlayBook

The BlackBerry PlayBook: Native email finally incomingPhoto: RIM

RIM's first tablet was criticised for launching without a native email client. Instead, tablet users need a BlackBerry smartphone as well: to view BlackBerry email on the PlayBook they must set up a Bluetooth link between the two devices using RIM's bridging software.

RIM is finally plugging the native email functionality gap with the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 which it said is expected to be available in February 2012 and will be available as a free download for all PlayBook users. The company is currently previewing the PlayBook OS 2.0 software at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place in Las Vegas this week.

The BlackBerry-maker is also showing off an update to its BlackBerry OS - BlackBerry 7.1 OS - plus tweaks to its BBM messenger service and its Travel and Traffic apps.

PlayBook OS 2.0

The new built-in messaging app on PlayBook will bring a unified inbox plus inbox management tools to the PlayBook. The unified inbox will allow users to manage personal and work email accounts, according to RIM, and also integrates the messaging capabilities of Twitter and LinkedIn. PlayBook native email will also support rich-text email composing, and tabbed email - allowing users to reference one email while they compose another. Searching across multiple email accounts, setting out of office messages and email signatures will be possible.

The PlayBook OS update also adds a built-in calendar app to the tablet, which RIM describes as "people-centric" - allowing users to view their calendar by who they are meeting with that day, and see info about that contact or their company, gleaned automatically from social networking services. The update also brings a contacts app to the PlayBook which will consolidate contacts data from the user's email and social services into a single file for each of their contacts - showing and automatically updating contacts' recent status updates, conversations, related news articles and mutual contacts.

With PlayBook 2.0, the BlackBerry Bridge feature allows a BlackBerry to be used as the PlayBook's keyboard and mouse, or as a PlayBook remote control - to pause and play videos. The new BlackBerry Bridge software also allows content stored on a BlackBerry smartphone to be opened on the PlayBook for both viewing and editing.

Other updates slated for RIM's PlayBook 2.0 include better document editing capabilities via the Documents To Go software such as the ability to view and update embedded charts and presentation editing options.

On the apps front, RIM says "many" new PlayBook apps will be available on BlackBerry App World once the OS update launches. PlayBook OS 2.0 will also support dedicated shelf space inside the BlackBerry App World storefront to enable IT departments to control distribution of enterprise apps. Recent app additions to the PlayBook platform being demoed by RIM at CES this week include Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Groupon.

US PlayBook users will also get access to a video store - via the integrated BlackBery Video Storefront - offering "thousands" of films and TV shows for purchase or rent. Support for additional countries is expected to be added later this year, according to RIM.

RIM has also tweaked the PlayBook's browser - with a new reading view for web pages that eliminates page clutter.

BlackBerry 7.1 OS

The BlackBerry 7.1 OS update brings NFC content-sharing to BlackBerry 7 users via RIM's BlackBerry Tag service. Support for NFC is also being added to BBM. The OS update also gives BlackBerry users the ability to turn their phone into a mobile hotspot that can be shared by up to five wi-fi-enabled devices.

RIM says it has also improved universal search - adding an auto-suggest feature that filters Bing search results. And BlackBerry Curve 9360 or 9380 users will gain an FM radio - since their handsets already contain the necessary circuitry and OS 7.1 will add a radio app.

The BlackBerry 7.1 OS update will begin rolling out from operators globally from today, according to RIM. Updates to BBM, BlackBerry Travel and BlackBerry Traffic will be available on BlackBerry App World from today.

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