It took almost a year, but Research In Motion has finally updated its PlayBook tablet with features it believes will appeal to business users looking for a 7-inch mobile device.
Early this morning the long-awaited version 2.0 of the tablet’s operating system was released to an immediate rush of downloads. On Crackberry.com there were some complaints of sluggishness with the 400 MB download, perhaps because of the load on RIM's servers, with one poster saying it was taking more than an hour. Others
PlayBook OS 2.0 includes an integrated calendar and email application, the biggest missing feature critics complained of when the PlayBook was released last April.
Almost as significantly for corporate users, the first version of RIM’s BlackBerry Mobile Fusion management software was released, which gives IT managers the power to control PlayBooks and encrypt data on it the way data is encrypted on BlackBerrys. Soon Mobile Fusion will include the ability to control mobile devices using Android and Apple iOS handhelds and tablets, making it a true mobile device management platform.
Finally, OS 2.0 will include an emulator allowing users to run Android applications, which may attract thousands of Android developers to port their apps to PlayBook. However, there is a caveat – they may not be able to directly sell their apps through BlackBerry AppWorld.
PlayBook OS 2.0 “gives RIM a fighting chance of [enterprise] share gains in what is predominantly an Apple-centric market for media tablets,” said Kevin Restivo, a senior mobile research analyst at IDC Canada.
The upgrade has been available for some time in beta, and Restivo was briefed on it at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “It has a markedly better performance” than the operating system has given until now,” he said. “It’s not a me-too product,” he added, explaining that the upgrade’s unified messaging and social media integration is a “tight experience.”
“It’s not just about putting email on it,” he said. RIM has “clearly taken it the next step.”
Still, he acknowledged that RIM and other tablet makers are still in an uphill battle against Apple’s iPad.
Kunal Gupta, CEO of Toronto-based mobile application developer Polar Mobile, which has written some 40 PlayBook apps, was cautious about whether the update will have an impact on his business.