Is the New BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 OS Good Enough to Compete?

By , dealnews Features Director

There's been a lot of talk about tablets recently; Barnes & Noble announced its 8GB NOOK Tablet this week (and, priced at $199, it's primed for direct competition with Amazon's Kindle Fire). Then there's the the ever-churning Apple iPad 3 rumor mill, which continues to propel us toward a tentative early March release. And just last week, RIM announced the long-awaited BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 OS.

Considering RIM's tenuous status in the mobile market, many people were curious to learn what the company had in store with its OS update, which includes built-in email with a unified messaging inbox, a calendar and contacts application, access to select Android apps, and BlackBerry Bridge (which lets users tether their BlackBerry smartphone to their tablet, thereby transforming it into a remote control). However, a number of different sources argue that the update is not enough to save the maligned PlayBook. In fact, CNET declared that, "at this point, even the most ardent fan has to admit that this product has been nothing but a disappointment." This statement came in an article unsurprisingly titled, "Sorry, PlayBook 2.0 still isn't worth your money."

The CNET commentary also points out that, despite the doom and gloom for the company, recent sales and promotions on the PlayBook have inspired an uptick in purchases. The 16GB model now consistently sells for around $199, and for just $100 more you can quadruple your storage to 64GB. This would likely explain why, in our poll last month, we discovered that more dealnews readers own a BlackBerry PlayBook than they do an iPad. (Either that, or BlackBerry users are more enthralled by surveys than iPad owners.) But, will the PlayBook continue to sell at high volume as tablets in general trend toward more affordable MSRPs and RIM finds more competition at that lower price point?

Because so many dealnews readers own the PlayBook, we believe our audience in particular has valuable opinions on the new additions to the OS. (Haven't updated yet? Find instructions to do so here.) Do you think the upgrades are enough to keep the device relevant in the tablet discussion? Or does the upgrade fall short? What other features were you hoping for? Tell us in the comments.

Front page photo credit: Technorati

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I have 3 tablets, 1 asus and 2 playbooks, i just got my second one after the update. You can not ask a better deal right now for a tablet. The 2.0 update was tremendous advance still some little improvements neeeds to made like import the contacts from gmail or other email services. Now your main contacts are from Twitter and facebook. The crisis is on good apps there are some good ones but some that are minus 5 stars. My first playbook i was a beta tester so i have many android app that are working fine. I really would love skype, google talk, bbm and few others. But i guess RIM has the key now to bring some people back. My 3 years old niece loves to watch youtube and play some games. This tablet fits everywhere compared to my asus that is more difficult to carry around. So RIM read this we need skype so bad. This are my 2 cents on this matter
I love the playbook BUT the update makes the interface perfect if I was the CEO of some company NOT some one who manly uses my tablet for the web and the lame games blackberry Needs better apps and the 199 steel will be perfect my sister's kindle fire stinks compared to this minycomputer device
My PlayBook is excellent value. Great hardware and has most of the software capabilities that I need or want. OS 2 improved the user interface and improved the screen sensitivity that makes it  much easier to pick links on a crowded screen. 

BlackBerry marketing folks please do you job and take note; users need a 1. native Kindle App (Return any money that Kobo paid for exclusivity and get Kindle installed - Kindle has many more customers than Kobo and much greater choice and flexibility of media.) and 2. get Skype up and running.

If BlackBerry is not listening - Hackers please get android up and running.
I would have to agree with the above sentiments. As a relatively new tablet owner (and thanks to Dealnews, i have a Thrive and Playbook for what an Ipad would cost me) I find the Playbook, refreshingly uncluttered and easy to use. The functions is offers (1080p camera, video and music player, incredible web browser, email, calendar, video chat, etc....) are wrapped up in a VERY decent price.

The 2.0 upgrade has definitely made it worth the buy for me. In fact i bought 2!!
Even before the update I thought of the PB as the most underrated tablet in the market. The design, hardware and screen resolution are all outstanding. From the get go some of its hardware such RAM and quality of the dual cameras were superior to the iPad2 and most other tablets. Of course, the media fails to point this out. I agree that the only knock against it now is the lack of apps. If the big ones such as Netflix, Hulu+ or Skype make their way unto the PB, then sales will most certainly take off.
First, FYI, the RIM "nutso CEO's" HAVE been replaced. 

As a former tech journalist myself, I can tell you that reporters LOVE to ride a wave. At the moment, it seems that everyone is floating on the crest of Bash BlackBerry. It's not that RIM doesn't deserve some ass kicking. They've dropped a lot of balls in the past two-three years. However, I also don't think the company deserves to be banished into the "Do No Right" corner that the tech media has placed it.

As a piece of hardware, the PlayBook (I own two) is excellent. At the current prices, it's a superb deal to boot.

On the software side, OS 2.0 is probably the OS the PlayBook should have launched with. Had that been the case, this tablet would have been far more successful. (If you review some of those initial reviews, they tended to be quite positive about the hardware and the software potential.) As it is, we now have a superb platform (with an excellent QNX-based multitasking OS that IMO leaves Android and iOS in the dust), yet still has quite a ways to go to be competitive in the app sweepstakes.

Nonetheless, to characterize the contacts, email, and scheduling triumverate of this OS 2.0 as a simple "PIM" is to not-at-all understand its power or the comprehensiveness of its vision. Together, these integrated apps (which really function as a single app) bring together data from several social-based sources in a way that no other program has ever done. Like all 1.0 software, it has shortcomings. (For my part, I'd like to see some Outlook-specific integration.) But that doesn't diminish the fact that it's a unique, remarkable achievement from RIM.

For me, the PlayBook represents a different vision of what's important in a tablet, a vision built around RIM's core "road warrior" clientele. It's a device that first and foremost collates, integrates, and organizes all the contact, appointment, and communication data that a business person lives or dies on.

Unfortunately, to a shocking degree, the press has allowed Apple to shape the view of what a tablet must be, which comes down to "thin with lots of available apps" because Apple really just  manufactures point-of-sale devices designed to hawk their libraries of music, film, and app wares. (No matter that a high percentage of those apps are utterly superfluous. I'll do my own farting, thank you. I don't need a $500 piece of tech to do it for me.) And then Android "brought up the rear" (they have fart apps, too) with a similar concept.

RIM has gone in an admirably different direction. Whether that will prove to be a commercially viable direction will remain to be seen. At least with OS 2.0, I think they now have an expression of their vision that is mature enough to show us all where they're going.

But where does that leave us now? Well, I have two tablets with a fast, efficient OS; powerful organizational and online tools (the PlayBook browser is a best-in-class achievement with remarkable HTML5 muscle); and the ability to support me whether I'm tracking my work commitments, reading the news, poring over a novel, or playing a game. (I'll continue to handle the flatulence on my own.)
Just upgraded yesterday, so cannot fairly comment on comparison, but I think the above comments are fairly consistent with my thoughts. Of great concern to me is the ability to interface with my iMac, which has been problematic, as well as compatibility with Google Voice, which I use a lot, and would like on the Playbook, even if just for outgoing calls. There were some glaring shortcomings with bluetooth devices (esp headphones) which I HOPE have been remedied.

 It is no surprise to me that more dealnews folks own the Playbook, as it represents real value, and there is always hope that those RIM nutso CEO's will be replaced, and better decision-making will prevail. In the meantime, this is all I need in a tablet, is easy to use, handles several tasks at once (without problem), has a brilliant screen (!!!), and fits in a coat-pocket. Plays internet radio beautifully out of those slivery front-firing speakers, which makes me happy, and the (2) cameras are great
(in sufficient light, anyway).
Were it to vanish (heaven forbid), I would buy another, without question.
The 2.0 update was what the Playbook should have been out of the gate, so in reality, we're just now getting the product we hoped to get to begin with.  That said, it's hardly been a failure to most owners because it's always been a joy to use.  The swipe gestures and beautiful display alone make it very user friendly and a comfortable product.  The full web browser means that nearly every function you don't have with an app or native program is still completely accessible online.  With the update came many improvements, and a few issues, of course, but nothing that has prevented my use of the tablet.  It's a solid, quality device.

Where the Playbook is weak is in the apps.  Almost everyone agrees on this point.  Productive apps are still lacking in the marketplace and I'm hoping more developers write for native use on the Playbook. While you can sideload/install a lot of android apps, the android player can be painful to use if it's something that deals with files you need to save and locate later.  I'm hoping the android conversions are a stopgap to fluff up the marketplace and create an ecosystem until more native apps are written to replace them.  

As for Cnet, I'm not concerned about their biased "reviews."  They clearly lean one way and that's fine if that's how they want to do it.  They're even right to a degree.  The Playbook has had a slow start because of some poor decisions on RIM's behalf, and even continues to have a tough time because of places like Best Buy discouraging customers from even looking at it.  There is a definite sense of being blackballed for no apparent reason.  Hopefully RIM can make some strategic decisions and bring it back from the brink, and 2.0 is a good start if you ask me.
The playbook is an awesome tablet!!!  I was very happy with mine even before 2.0!  As I have a blackberry phone, I used the built in bridge function to handle my email and be able to access the internet without wifi or being hit by cell phone carrier "hotspot" charges.  The new ability to type on my playbook by using my Blackberry Bold 9930's excellent keyboard is even more of a bonus.

The big thing missing from your article in the list of included features with the 2.0 update is the abiliity to run android apps. So not only can the playbook run its native apps, a large number of android apps have been "ported" over to the playbook and are easy to install.  Head over to /[/url] for the information on how to load them and for a large list of the apps.

The size is perfect for taking everywhere with you.  I've essentially gone paperless at work because I always have my playbook with me that has everything on it.  As a amazon prime customer, I have the same access to videos and books that a fire owner has (using the android kindle app for the books and the native playbook browser with flash for the videos).  Since the going price for a 16gb playbook these days is equivalent with a fire, to me it is a no brainer to take the playbook's better hardware and user interface over the fire.

I would be curious at this point to see what people think is missing from the playbook.