(Update: Looks like the PlayBook OS 2.0 is set to be available at the end of February. February 29 to be exact. At least according to SlashGear, the Playbook OS update will become available on the 29th of Feb during this year’s Mobile World Congress.)
When the BlackBerry Playbook came out, the consensus was that it had outstanding hardware but there were a few things lacking with the software such as a native email client. With the announcement of the version 2.0 of the Playbook OS, RIM is putting all the things missing with version 1.0. Members of the Philippine Tech media were the first ones in the region to get a full hands-on of the OS and as you’ll read below, it looks like social media is one of the priorities in developing 2.0.
First off, RIM has finally developed a full Emailclient for the Playbook. At first glance, it looks like any other Email client. In fact, iPad fans say that the client has taken a few UI cues from their tablet. However, delving deeper into the app, you can also link your social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn to the email app where will be able to message to each site as if composing an email. Another feature is the tabbed email where you can reference one email (or more) email while composing another. Also, the Email app saves your emails on the Playbook itself. You can work on your emails offline and will send and receive them once you are connected to Internet or your corporate network.
Second is the much more integrated and robust Contacts and Calendar apps. Again, as with the email client both apps integrate your social sites so that you, for Contacts, you’ll have one place to contact anyone in your address book whether by phone, email, Twitter, or Facebook. This is the same for the Calendar where it will sync events and appointments for Facebook, for example.
The Web Browser has also been updated with a reading view feature. The feature allows you to strip unnecessary clutter in any site and just shows the main content of the page. This is similar to the Reader feature where all you see is a white background with the text and any relevant media displayed.
Other apps such as Documents to Go have been improved to make it easier and intuitive for PlayBook users to use. While the new Print to Go app allows you print from the Playbook wirelessly to a wireless printer or a networked connected PC without the additional hassle of the complicated configuration of a printer setup.
Speaking of wireless, the BlackBerry Bridge app has also been improved. This time around, you can use your BlackBerry 6 or 7 OS smartphone to remotely control your Playbook. The touchscreen of your BlackBerry becomes a remote thumbpad and a cursor appears on the Playbook. All gesture commands that the Playbook acknowledges can be done on your Blackberry. The QWERTY keypad on the phone also works pretty much the same. This is good for example, connecting the Playbook to a display and setting the tablet beside it while you work a conference room controlling the Playbook with your BlackBerry smartphone.
One final feature with the new OS is the ability for the Blackberry Playbook to run repackaged Android apps. The word -repackaged- has to be emphasized as Android apps will not run out of the box with the PlayBook. While it is much simpler than actually having to port Android apps for the PlayBook OS, developers still has to repackage their apps and send them to the BlackBerry App World. The good thing about this is that you won’t have to go to any other market place or app store to find an app. Everything will will be managed at the BlackBerry App World.
At the end of the preview, I was a bit more excited about the new OS than I was when I first came to the Preview. While the Email, Contacts, and Calendar apps are much appreciated by PlayBook users, it really isn’t as revolutionary even with the integration of social site. On the other hand, the updated Bridge app and the ability to run Android apps is intriguing and could allow the PlayBook to become a viable option in a very tough market. For those that already have the PlayBook, they’ll get an upgrade that they’ve been waiting for.
For those who can’t wait for RIM for version 2.0, RIM assured us that it will be available globally in February. And since it already is the 2nd half of the month, it isn’t that long of a wait.