Call Me a Fanboy but…

…OS2.0 for the Blackberry Playbook (released today) is a huge improvement over the Operating System that initially shipped with the Playbook.  We test a lot of gear at my company and luckily I get to be in on the action.  After playing with an iPad (1st gen) for a few months and using it more for games than work I decided to give the Blackberry Playbook a try.

I know a lot of people have given up on Blackberry (or actually Research in Motion).  A lot of those same people used to LOVE Blackberry.  The company has had its share of setbacks but honestly those issues have not affected me as an end-user.  I have a Bold 9930 and I think it’s one of the best phones I’ve ever had (you get the best of both worlds with a touch screen AND a keyboard).

I have nothing against the iPhone or the Android platform.  I have an 4th gen iPod Touch and use it daily.  I just have not found the need, or had the desire, to change to yet another platform.  I’ve already been through several Palm devices and multiple flavors of Windows Mobile.  Once I moved to the Blackberry I was a happy man.  So if I’m happy I’m not necessarily looking to leave just yet.

Te Playbook was pretty limited in its original version.  I did like the tethering feature that kept all of my corporate information on my phone vs. on the actual Playbook.  This has its advantages of not having to sync two devices and the data is encrypted throughout its journey from the server to your eyes.  Overall it worked well but there were things missing.

One thing that was missing were a large variety of applications.  The list was just too limited.  That’s ben fixed with OS 2.0.  developers were offered a free Playbook if they recompiled their Android apps to the Blackberry platform before a certain date.  Call it a desperate move (it may have been) but it definitely fixed the issue with a limited application catalog.

I used my Playbook for casual web surfing (it has a great browser) and for watching video.  Movies, TV’s and the 1080p HD videos the Playbook can record.  Given the right lighting the recordings are absolutely incredible.

Here the Playbook hardware specs for all the geeks out there (I highlighted the good stuff):

  • 7″ LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • Texas Instruments OMAP4430 Processor, Dual Core@ 1GHz
    • IVA 3 hardware accelerators enable full HD 1080p, multi-standard video encode/decode
    • Faster, higher-quality image and video capture with digital SLR-like imaging up to 20 megapixels
    • Dual-core ARM® Cortex-A9 MPCore with Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP)
    • Integrated POWERVR SGX540 graphics accelerator drives 3D gaming and 3D user interfaces
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Memory: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB
  • 5300mAh battery
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • GPS and Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, 3.5mm headset port, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.2, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Ultra thin and portable:
    • Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
    • Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)

I’m not trying to compare the Playbook to an iPad or any other tabled device.  I’m just reporting my experiences with it.  Performance is very fast and you can take advantage of true multi-tasking that allows you to run several applications at once and switch between them with a simple finger swipe.  In fact, the gestures are very intuitive and allow for a lot of control of the device.

OS 2.0 adds some much-needed software features to a strong hardware platform:

  • Integrated email client with a powerful unified inbox (nothing “new” but a different way of doing things)
  • Social Integration with Calendar and Contacts apps (links all of your contacts and social media services you use)
  • Updated BlackBerry Bridge app (remote control of the Playbook from your Blackberry phone)
  • Updated document editing functions (Docs-to-go baked in)
  • Print To Go (“print” documents to the Playbook wirelessly)

There are other enhancements as well but a lot of them are subtle (like a revamped keyboard layout) and notification method.

All in all I have been pleased with the playbook and it’s been a very useful tool for work.  OS 2.0 adds to that usefulness and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from RIM.  If the company eventually fails, it fails (I’m not going to save it by being a happy customer).  I’ll then have to move on to another platform.  I’m not sure which one though.  Maybe something new will come along by then.

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