Finally: RIM Releases PlayBook 2.0 OS; Email, Android Support Included

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The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend

By most accounts there aren’t very many people out there in the world using PlayBooks, but for those that are, or are considering the purchase of one, comes some good news: RIM has finally updated the OS to include two services that have been long discussed and much anticipated: integrated email support and Android app availability.

The OS could serve to give the device a boost in the market, after many people slammed RIM for shipping the tablet too early when it debuted last year without these and other features.

PlayBook OS 2.0 will be available as a free download for existing users and will automatically update on new devices. Some details:

The new email client — at long last integrated with the tablet and no longer requiring the user to own a BlackBerry to use email on the tablet — was perhaps the most obvious feature that RIM needed to fix in this update.

But what RIM has done is effectively bring the PlayBook up to speed with what other device makers have already been doing on other platforms like Android. Now users can access both personal and work email via the device, and the unified inbox can also be used for incoming messages from social networks Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Not clear if others, like Google+, can be added as well at the moment. Similarly, social features are also being integrated with RIM’s calendar and contact apps.

The other big area that has become crucial for tablet and smartphone makers is apps and content in general. The PlayBook has not been a standout in this area up to now, but RIM again is hoping to make up for that by not only beefing up its own catalog of apps but also giving access to a select number of Android apps:

During RIM’s developer conference earlier this month, the company said it had 60,000 apps on App World. Today, RIM tells us that it is adding “thousands” of PlayBook apps, with the addition of “a range” (again, no specific numbers) of Android apps also to be used on the tablet.

It is also finally adding its video store — first discussed last year — which will feature some 10,000 films and TV shows to rent to buy. RIM says will only be available initially in the U.S., with further countries to be added later.

One nice hardware development: those who do own BlackBerry smartphones will be able to link them up to the PlayBook to use their keyboards to input text on the tablet.

And in a nod to enterprise users — still very much part of RIM’s heartland, despite its many moves to bring consumers into the fold — there are also more productivity features added to the new OS, to print documents and manage files on corporate networks. With a number of third-party players getting involved in this space on other platforms, it will be interesting to see if these features drive more enterprise takeup of PlayBooks.

What’s interesting is that many had thought that RIM would wait until Mobile World Congress next week to announce the PlayBook update. Will that mean that there is other news up its sleeve for next week?