RIM delivers BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0

PlayBook users can now update their devices to access a range of new features in the PlayBook 2.0 operating system, including a unified inbox, Wi-Fi hotspot functionality and better enterprise management features
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Research In Motion has finally pushed out BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, after missing its promised delivery window for the major update to its tablet operating system.

The new version of the OS for the 7-inch PlayBook tablet was made available for download on Tuesday, ahead of next week's Mobile World Congress 2012 show in Barcelona. RIM had previously planned to deliver the upgrade before the end of 2011.

PlayBook OS 2.0

RIM has rolled out the delayed PlayBook OS 2.0 for its tablet, introducing built-in email and calendar features. Image credit: RIM

Version 2.0 brings several new features to the platform, including built-in email and calendar features. In the earlier version, users had to rely on a connection to a BlackBerry smartphone via BlackBerry Bridge to get emails on their PlayBook tablet.

The new unified inbox pulls together all messages across work and personal email accounts, as well as from social networks. In addition, PlayBook 2.0 provides social-network integration for the calendar and contacts, automatically populating these with information from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

"The new BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 introduces a range of new communications and productivity enhancements as well as expanded app and content support," David Smith, RIM's head of mobile computing, said in a statement.

As expected, though, the update does not include a native version of BlackBerry Messenger. RIM said in October it was putting off adding a BBM app until a later release of the tablet OS, as it was still working on the software.

RIM has struggled with its PlayBook tablet, and acknowledged in December that it had a high number of devices stuck in its inventory. The company blamed a competitive tablet market — where it goes up against Apple's iPad — and the delay in releasing version 2.0 of the PlayBook OS as factors in the weak demand.

Enterprise features

With its integrated email, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 bulks up its enterprise-friendly features. Another new feature aimed at business users is updated document editing tools, such as the Open On tool. This allows people to open files, photos or links from a BlackBerry smartphone on the tablet with one click.

RIM has also introduced a Print To Go app to Documents To Go, which edits and views Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Print To Go lets people use a Wi-Fi network to 'print' a file from a PC onto their PlayBook, where it will be stored as a digital printout.

Alongside PlayBook 2.0, RIM released a first version of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which can be used for managing BlackBerry smartphones and tablets in the enterprise. The full release, expected in March, will include features for managing iOS and Android mobile devices, according to the company.

The OS update also promises more control over corporate data on the tablet with revamped BlackBerry Balance functionality.

BlackBerry Bridge options have been expanded, with the introduction of remote control functionality for the PlayBook when used with a BlackBerry smartphone. With this, the handset can effectively be used as a remote keyboard and mouse for the tablet.

In addition, BlackBerry Bridge still provides a Bluetooth connection between the PlayBook and BlackBerry smartphone, giving access to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and the browser, as well as secondary access to email and calendars.

New apps

The company also said that "thousands" of new apps are also being added to BlackBerry App World on Tuesday.

These include "a range of Android" apps that will work on the BlackBerry PlayBook, even though RIM said earlier in February that it planned to avoid being like Android and that it would keep "garbage" apps out of App World. Android apps need to be specifically recompiled to work on the PlayBook 2.0 OS "app player".

It also brings a video store to the device for the first time, although this is launching in the US only. "Support for other countries is expected to be added later this year," RIM said in a statement.

PlayBook users can check if the update is available by going into the tablet's system settings and then navigating to the software updates section.

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