CES: BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 previewed

Rumours of its demise seem a little premature as RIM previews BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, which it hopes will breathe new life into its tablet offering. With that lower price point, it just might.

The company is certainly still talking it up: 'BlackBerry PlayBook is already recognised for delivering powerful performance, true multitasking, advanced web browsing and HD multimedia in an ultra-portable design,' said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at Research In Motion. 'With BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 we are building on this strong foundation, as well as leveraging our strengths in communications, social integration and productivity, to allow people to use their BlackBerry PlayBook in new ways throughout the day.'

So what's new? Well, plenty as it happens. Messaging has been overhauled for a start, with a new unified inbox, which brings together personal and work email, along with messaging from social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. There's also 'multitasking' within email via tabbed email plus rich-text email and inbox management tools, that last one including search across all email accounts, as well as the ability to set out-of-office messages and email signatures directly from the tablet.

Improved calendar functionality allows you to view the calendar with background information on who you are meeting – information is consolidated automatically from social networking sites about that contact and/or their company. If that's not enough, a 'relationship-centric contacts app' merges and consolidates information from multiple sources (including email and social channels) into one contact file for each person in their address book, so you know exactly what they're currently about.

Remote control for the BlackBerry PlayBook uses the new BlackBerry Bridge so your smartphone can interact with your tablet, both as a remote control and for viewing files from your phone on the larger screen. Talking of files, there are also updated document editing capabilities via updated Documents To Go functionality. That includes enhanced support for the virtual keyboard, the ability to view and update embedded charts and chart sheets within spreadsheets, a new formula wizard with over 100 functions as well as the ability to edit presentations including text, bullets and formatting.

New apps too. The Print To Go application is included, which allows you to to wirelessly 'print' from a PC directly to BlackBerry PlayBook over Wi-Fi. On top of that, new apps incoming include the likes of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Groupon, Thomson Reuters and Zinio, while RIM will be offering 'thousands' of movies and TV shows via the integrated BlackBerry Video Storefront – but only in the US initially. Finally, enhanced web browsing is promised via the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 browser, which includes a new reading view designed to remove 'page clutter' at the touch of a button to make articles easier to read.

If all of that appeals, the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 software update will be available as a free download for all BlackBerry PlayBook users around February 2012.

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