Scoop: BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Never Intended to be Major Update

by Reads (3,975)

Critics’ intitial reaction to the system was favorable, both for the hardware as well as the budding operating system – all the while noting the platform’s major, glaring error: the fact that developer support has been so weak up to now as to be essentially nonexistent.

Despite that, RIM has pushed on; while cancelling a planned 10-inch PlayBook, as well as (so far) any options with cellular connectivity, the company has sworn and sworn again that they have no plans to stop selling the original 7-inch tablet. The major criticisms for the device have generally been related to the complete lack of native calendar and e-mail options (a traditional BlackBerry strong point) and the aforementioned lack of dev support. 

 

RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis BlackBerry PlayBook
RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis discusses the BlackBerry PlayBook

RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook has always been something of a mixed bag. From its release until today, critics’ reactions have generally been Waterloo’s tech giant has so far issued several regular updates, which, much to fans of the tablet’s dismay, have all been relatively minor, and limited largely to security and stability enhancements. The past few months have seen rumors flying around, as well as some screenshots, of the PlayBook’s operating system 2.0. The update to the QNX-based OS was expected to bring a number of major updates to the unit, including app support, Android compatibility, email applications and more.

Unfortunately, as more news trickled out about the release, it seems that RIM had scaled their expectations back. Now the software is expected to update a few of the native apps with much needed functionality (the podcast player, for example, *finally* gets RSS support), as well as bring limited support for some Android apps via the Android Player – developers will have to resubmit apps specifically within RIM’s App World software store, as PlayBook users cannot officially install just any old Android app – but still, no native e-mail or calendar support is to be found.

The new update has been pushed to February, completely missing the holiday window and (more importantly perhaps) doesn’t come until well after CES, which will see a staggering release of tablets from just about every manufacturer. Why is RIM so willing to let this keep sliding back?  As it turns out, the PlayBook update was never supposed to be a major release like many have previously reported.

RIM had always planned on gradually updating the tablet with new features – despite initial consumer interest (and the name), the PlayBook has always been and continues to be a business-oriented device; major updates can be disruptive to business interests. PlayBook 2.0 was originally going to be one of these gradual updates until, as one RIM employee put it, “marketing got their hands on it.”

We’ve seen RIM’s marketing department strike several times in recent months. BlackBerry OS 7 was mostly just a rehash of BlackBerry OS 6 with a new spin in order to inadequately compete against threats from Apple and Google. BlackBerry X skips BB OS 8 and 9 in order to transition to the same QNX framework that runs on the PlayBook. PlayBook 2.0 is the just the latest example.

Despite the setback, and RIM’s seeming inability to port their bread-and-butter messaging and email system to the tablet, the PlayBook has seen some resurgent interest lately thanks to some exceptional deals on the device. In order to combat stalled sales, RIM announced that it was slashing the tablet’s price down to $299 from its original $499 price point. Recent sales have seen that price fall yet another hundred down to just $199 – a price which makes it competitive with the recently unveiled Amazon Kindle Fire.


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