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BlackBerry PlayBook’s Next OS Plays To RIM’s Strengths: Email, Calendar, Productivity

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CES generally isn’t RIM’s stomping ground, but the Canadian company is here in force. Chief among RIM’s news is details about the upcoming PlayBook refresh. Available for download next month, PlayBook 2.0, as RIM is calling it, seems to right many of the PlayBook’s wrongs. This is the feature set the tablet so badly needed at launch.

RIM is finally bringing email to the PlayBook. PlayBook 2.0 will bring a host of new email management tools to the tablet: unified inbox with social network integration, tabbed email, rich-text email editing, multi-account search. The unified inbox sounds like a souped-up version of the loved BlackBerry version. It supports multiple accounts from personal and enterprise sources. It also brings in feeds from Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources. Thankfully, with that much info in one place, the interface supports tabs.

It’s everything and more that the PlayBook was previously missing. Had the so-called BlackBerry tablet launched with the proper email support, it might not be on a fire sale right now.

The next PlayBook OS version will also bring a new standard set of calendar features that, like the new inbox, pulls info from social networking sites. The contacts app works that way as well, pulling in info from email and social channels and collating the information into each contact — sounds a lot like webOS.

With PlayBook 2.0, a user’s BlackBerry suddenly becomes more than just a bridge to the tablet. It becomes a remote control with the ability to act as a mouse or keyboard to the tablet. RIM says it’s perfect for those times that the PlayBook is hooked to an HDTV as you watch home movies of your little tikes.

It’s a little sad, really. RIM has finally built a proper tablet ecosystem. PlayBook 2.0 is what the PlayBook 1.0 should have been. There are new apps on the way as well as a video store for movies and TV shows rentals and purchases with day-and-date releases. The update even brings a new browser to the tablet. But it doesn’t matter for anyone but PlayBook owners. RIM launched the PlayBook with a gimped feature set. The company launched a product that was not ready and took nearly a year to release the right software. A unified inbox cannot erase a year of negative press.