New PlayBook Update But Still No @#$%! Native E-Mail, Android Player
RIM today released another OS update for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. But CIO.com's Al Sacco is disappointed in RIM and its latest minor software enhancements. Here's why.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
UPDATE 2: RIM has confirmed the removal of PlayBook OS v 18.104.22.16850, due to issues with BlackBerry Bridge. The company said via Twitter that it plans to release another update “later this week.”
UPDATE 1: As of 3 PM EST today, the update to BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet OS v 22.214.171.12450 is no longer available via PlayBook OTA update, suggesting that RIM has removed the release. The move could be related to a number of issues reported by early users, many of which appear to be BlackBerry Bridge related.
Every time BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) releases a new PlayBook Tablet OS update, as it did this morning, I frustratingly watch various CrackBerry addicts and gadget geeks cheer for joy on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other online venues. Many headlines announcing the new PlayBook OS updates on BlackBerry fanboy sites even include exclamation points to help express the writers’ excitement.
But I don’t feel any elation at these mostly insignificant releases. Instead, I feel disappointment…and a bit of resentment toward RIM. Here’s why.
I genuinely believe that the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet has a ton of potential. I love its size, build quality, and OS, among other things. But almost four months after its initial release, RIM’s tablet still feels half baked. In an iPad-dominated world where user experience is King, a half-baked tablet just won’t cut it.
RIM is learning this lesson the hard way.
Let’s take a look at the new “features and enhancements” included in today’s BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet OS, v 126.96.36.19950, according to CrackBerry.com:
Improved connectivity & productivity with the BlackBerry Bridge application
Enhanced Support for Saving Attachments
ZIP Attachment Support
Additional Multimedia Features
Portrait Support in Pictures App
Pinch to Zoom in Video App
Additional Language Support
That’s all fine and good. But what about the !@#$%^ native e-mail and personal information management (PIM) apps RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie promised would arrive weeks ago? Or, dare I say it, a cellular version of the PlayBook, which was also originally due for a summer release, but has since been bumped to “sometime this year?” I guess we’re just supposed to wait patiently until these features arrive, and then be thankful we got them at all…
As is, the PlayBook feels a bit like the body of a shiny new Mercedes, ready to hit the road hard…but stuck up on the lift without any tires.
The ongoing lack of native e-mail bothers me the most. That’s partially because I wrote a post shortly after the PlayBook’s release defending RIM’s decision to ship the PlayBook without native e-mail and PIM, and I now feel like a bit of heel since RIM still hasn’t released native e-mail. My past post explained that BlackBerry Bridge, the application that’s supposed to make up for the lack of native e-mail and PIM by connecting your BlackBerry smartphone and tablet, was a decent stopgap solution. And that native e-mail and PIM would arrive soon after the tablet’s release, so the situation really wasn’t a big deal.
RIM’s inability to get native e-mail and PIM into the hands of its PlayBook users proved me wrong, especially when you consider that Bridge simply doesn’t work all that well, at least in my experience. (I’ve had countless issues with BlackBerry Bridge since I first installed it last April—it crashes constantly, takes forever to load and frequently does not display all the messages in my inbox, etc.—but I will say that some PlayBook users report better luck with Bridge.)
And I resent being proven wrong after sticking up for the BlackBerry maker. I had faith that RIM would keep to its word and meet its targeted release date for native e-mail and PIM, but as of right now, literally more than three months after its release and well into summer, the PlayBook is still without native e-mail. There’s no cellular PlayBook in sight. And the Android App Player, which will enable the PlayBook to run mobile applications originally developed for the Android OS, was also supposed to be released “this summer.” But RIM has not yet announced any official date for when the Android Player will drop, even though it started teasing the functionality before the PlayBook was released.
This inability to get new, finished and functional products to market in a reasonable timeframe is why RIM is watching its U.S. market share melt away before its metaphorical eyes like a scoop of ice cream on sun-baked pavement–not because the company has two CEOs, not because those CEOs also hold chairman positions, and not because iPhones and Android devices are inherently “cooler” than BlackBerrys, as some folks in the media seem to suggest.
So while many PlayBook owners celebrate that new BlackBerry Tablet OS update, I continue to wait for a significant software release that actually addresses my major complaints about the PlayBook and hope that RIM gets its act together before all of the recent doom and gloom stories about the company’s demise shift from the realm of fantasy to reality.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.