RIM BlackBerry Playbook OS 2.0: Review

Here’s our Chris Miller’s review of the new update to the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook OS. More detail on OS 2.0 inside …

The Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry Playbook OS 2.0 release is finally out. I checked it out for you.

Now, I’ve been a tester of the RIM development builds for some time — but the true test came when I downloaded and installed OS 2.0.

The download was quick and the installation came off without a hitch.  I had nothing more to do than approve the download and let it reboot.

BlackBerry Playbook Desktop

RIM made some significant changes to the user interface in the latest release of its PlayBook operating system. And there are a lot of new features. With this release, RIM has fixed one of the glaring issues — you couldn’t add folders before. Now you can. And the whole panel metaphor is gone now, too.

It’s now possible  to have multiple pages of icons  — not unlike Apple iOS — and you’re able to drag icons on top of each other to start a new folder.  Renaming the folder was simple.  I was able to add about 13 icons with no problem — and I haven’t hit a limit yet.

New to the UI is the favorites bar. Unlike Apple with iOS, RIM places it at the top to match the minimized look and feel of OS7 on its BlackBerry handheld devices.  It was easy to move what I wanted in and out of the favorites bar to customize the experience.

Also new to the OS is the Android player, plus long-awaited features like messages, calendar and contacts. Video chat is new, too. Check out my video above for some of the details here.

RIM does offer an enterprise control for OS 2.0 of the PlayBook — it’s called Mobile Fusion. Expect a separate review of Mobile Fusion soon.

Messages now allows you to hook up numerous email sources, including Microsoft Exchange and Google Gmail. It supports POP3, CalDAV and IMAP, too.

That brings a lot of new flexibility to the platform.  Still missing, though, is the ability to hook a Playbook to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) — something I was really hoping for.

Nevertheless, I found setup for all the various messaging components to be quite simple and, as you see in my video review, there’s an advanced mode, too.

Calendar and contacts offer new interfaces, and integration with each other.  RIM focuses on hooking social streams into your calendar and contacts, capabilities it got from its purchase of Gist last year.

One feature the PlayBook still needs is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).  That is a glaring omission, especially when you consider just how heavily BlackBerry users rely on it.  RIM still has found no way to move users from a PIN-controlled BBM setup to your BlackBerry ID, which is unique to a person but not to a device.

That means I could have multiple BlackBerry phones and PlayBooks sharing a BlackBerry ID in AppWorld– but each has its own device identifier for BBM.  RIM needs to address that.

RIM partnered with Roxio for a video store that does not use your BlackBerry ID, but requires you to establish a separate account.  I would like to see these integrated, instead.

RIM is late with this upgrade, and there’s still no 3G support. That’s a problem.

In my opinion, RIM is caught between the enterprise BES experience and an open market that demands integration with any mail system.  As I said, the new OS upgrade supports Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Traveler, Gmail, and any IMAP or POP3 system.

The good news is, you no longer need the BlackBerry Bridge for messaging and calendaring capabilities.  Adding the strength of the Android Market to the experience is a huge win for expanding adoption to customers in or outside the enterprise. Especially at the current price point.

But is it arriving too late?  Send me your feedback.


  • That’s one funny lookin’ Kindle Fire. (jk) ;)

    I used to LOVE Blackberry, but their hardware never measured up to the performance I wanted after I saw the first Droid and the iphone 3gs. RAM and CPU quality were sub par in my opinion.

    -RAP, II

    • I would agree the older models and ones at the same time as the 3GS and Droid didn’t match. The new devices however perform well and have plenty behind the scenes. I have been through the new 9930 Bold and now into the new touch only Torch (I do have a HTC EVO and the iPod touch to compare with).

      We will have another update on the next show after a couple weeks with the upgrade in our hands on the Playbooks.