BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0: RIM’s Last Shot?

PlayBook OS 2.0 download in progress

BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 is finally here. At long last PlayBook owners have a reason to crow about their units–instead of quietly sliding them away each time someone nearby pulls out an iPad.
But OS 2.0 is late–possibly too late to save the PlayBook.

From the moment it debuted last April, the BlackBerry PlayBook has been a heartbreaking disappointment. While its hardware and sleek design have garnered kudos for the seven-inch tablet, it unfortunately debuted without essentials like e-mail or contact-management software or a calendar. It also had an app store with a selection which made the worst of the Android Market seem like the Works of William Shakespeare.

At that time Research In Motion promised that a new PlayBook OS with e-mail, contact and calendar clients and an Android emulator that would allow the PlayBook to run popular Android apps would be ready by last June. Then it was October. We’ve been waiting ever since. Now it’s here.

Today BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, with all of the above trimmings, finally becomes available as a free over-the-air download. And it’s about darn time.

If you were lucky enough to preview PlayBook OS 2.0 at the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas in January, you already know that this upgrade is a must download. The new OS is a head-and-shoulders improvement to the original quirky, limited-use operating system.

BlackBerry booth at 2012 CES

The new PlayBook e-mail, contact and calendar clients shown at CES are things of beauty. They have easy-to-use interfaces and smooth integration with social media services. The versions shown at CES looked like finished products even then–not just prototypes.

In terms of productivity, the new software offers a high level of cross-app integration, thus eliminating steps in doing basic tasks like setting up a meeting and inviting attendees. PlayBook OS 2.0 will also be more manageable than the previous version and will allow users to create their own folders.

One area where the PlayBook has always outdone other tablets like the iPad is in its still camera and video capabilities. For example, the video below was shot at the 2011 New York International Auto Show with the PlayBook’s five-megapixel rear-facing camera.

This video was shot at 720p resolution, which is not even the best the PlayBook can do: It also supports recording at 1080p and 480p.

The BlackBerry PlayBook also has a three-megapixel front-facing camera, which, combined with its microphone and stereo speakers, would make it a terrific videoconferencing solution–if it could only run Skype in addition to the little-known tablet videoconferencing apps in BlackBerry App World. But that may change soon.

As far as PlayBook-compatible Android apps are concerned, don’t expect to get access to the Android Market. Android apps need a little tweaking as well as approval from RIM before they will work on the PlayBook.

These PlayBook-approved Android apps will show up in BlackBerry App World along with those designed specifically for the QNX-based PlayBook OS. Thus, installing an Android app on the PlayBook will be no different from the process currently used. Right now only a handful of the most popular mobile apps are available as native apps for the PlayBook. This short list includes Facebook, Groupon, Evernote, Kobo and YouTube.

As of today, suggested pricing for the BlackBerry PlayBook is significantly reduced from the original levels, which ranged from $499 to $699. A PlayBook with 16GB of internal storage now retails for $199, the 32GB version is $249 and a 64GB unit is $299.

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet running PlayBook OS 1.0

If you’ll be upgrading a PlayBook as soon as OS 2.0 is available, keep in mind that an OS update is a serious upgrade. Before you start, back up important data elsewhere, make sure your unit is charged, keep it plugged in to an AC adapter during the upgrade process and make sure you have a reliable data connection. Once you start, follow the instructions to the letter. An aborted OS upgrade could chew up your data and turn your PlayBook into an expensive paperweight.

So how did your unit survive the OS 2.0 upgrade? Let’s hear about it.

Text and videos Copyright 2012, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Palm Pre: Preview to a Palm comeback?

The 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas right now (I’m not there this year) and so is the inescapable blizzard of press releases, Twitter tweets and other flashes from the show floor.

While there are plenty of nifty new devices that make good use of today’s technologies, there are not many product announcements that have made a major ripple so far.
One notable exception, however, is Palm Inc.’s new Palm Pre smartphone. Like Apple’s iPhone, the Pre has a touchscreen, but unlike the iPhone, it also has a slide-down QWERTY keyboard.
Palm has authored a new operating system for the new phone: Palm webOS. Like the Android software developed by Google for T-Mobile’s G1 smartphone, webOS is an open platform, which bodes well for seeing nifty applications for the Pre from independent software developers.
The Pre has a 3.1-inch touchscreen, a 3-megapixel digital camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a Web browser, e-mail and instant-messaging software, eight gigabytes of data space and some preinstalled applications. It will be available from Sprint later this year and support the carrier’s 3G high-speed data network. No pricing has been announced yet, however.

Like any Palm device, a lot of time has been put into developing the unit’s calendar and contact list applications. The phone merges data from different sources to make it easier to manage. For example, if you have the same person listed in the contact list on your computer and on your Gmail contact list, the phone will detect that it’s the same person and provide just one listing for that person on the phone. The Pre can run multiple applications at once and allows you to flip quickly between them.
It’s been a while since Palm has created this much buzz for a new product. The announcement of the Pre sparked a boost in Palm’s stock price. It remains to be seen if this unit will have the necessary level of user-friendliness and reliability to make a dent in a market dominated by Research in Motion’s Blackberry devices.
Is the Pre for you? Why or why not?
Text Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Images courtesy of Palm Inc.