The second version of RIM’s PlayBook operating system, which also happens to be the first overhaul issued for the tablet since its launch in early 2011, has finally been issued to device owners after a year-long wait. The Canadian company originally promised that PlayBook OS 2.0 would be out by December of last year.
In a recent statement by Chief Executive Thorsten Heins, who took over as company head in January, it was announced that RIM planned to stay the course and push forward with its tablet operation despite the product’s apparent shortcomings.
Since its debut, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook has been a perennially poor performer that faced harsh critical reviews, suffered abysmal sales numbers and was a loss leader which ultimately cost the company$485 million dollars in unsold units by the end of last year.
The overall lack of interest in the device may be a symptom of the limited content available from RIM’s BlackBerry App World, which reportedly supplies only 60,000 apps. In comparison, Apple is currently counting down to the 25 billionth download from its App Store, which boasts over 550,000 apps.
The disparity between RIM and Apple’s tablet business has become so great that some analysts have estimated the BlackBerry maker is worth less than Apple’s App Store alone.
RIM hopes that the new OS will breathe some life back into the PlayBook platform, though it is doubtful that the changes will bring the device in line with or even close to offerings from competitors.
The PlayBook OS 2.0 over-the-air download comes in at over 500 MB, offering various bug fixes and UI tweaks, but perhaps the most talked about feature is the addition of a native email client.
In an overview of the new features provided by OS 2.0, RIM touts the app’s unified inbox, HTML-compatible messaging, and attachment downloads.
Also new to 2.0 are native calendar and contacts apps that can interface with social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
A device linking feature called BlackBerry Bridge was revamped and allows users to remotely control the PlayBook with a BlackBerry smartphone.
In addition to the software enhancements, RIM has slashed the prices of the entire PlayBook line, with the entry-level 16 GB model costing $199. The drop brings the tablet into the price range of the Kindle Fire, however sales of the PlayBok are not expected to reach the level of Amazon’s device or Apple’s iPad.
For some, the update may be underwhelming, and while the changes aren’t flashy or drastic, they manage to bring much needed functionality to the aging device.
RIM is expected to launch a series of smartphones that will run the company’s also-delayed BlackBerry OS 10 in the second half of 2012, though pundits are skeptical that software updates alone are enough to resuscitate the once-powerful phone maker.