Updated Owners of a BlackBerry PlayBook can now download version 188.8.131.5219, finally providing a native email client and some integrated social networking, but not a lot of either.
This is the PlayBook OS which brings support for ported Android apps, and native email, along with better social integration and document management, but it does not have BBM and won’t talk nicely to Google's PIM applications, and it wasn't really the software which prevented people buying the PlayBook anyway.
The BlackBerry Bridge is still in evidence, if one has a BlackBerry handset to link up with, but as a stand-alone device the PlayBook still isn't quite there.
The email client is good looking, and something PlayBook users have been waiting for. Social network integration is limited to Facebook and LinkedIn, so don't expect your Google contacts or calendar to synchronise, and there's still no Twitter application – though the PlayBook will alert for direct messages once an account is configured.
Those alerts drop into the universal mailbox, the same mailbox into which Twitter will have dropped an email alerting you to the same Direct Message (Twitter likes to make sure you get messages addressed direct to you), so there's little chance of missing anything important. Tap the Twitter icon from the main screen and you're directed to the website – and asked to enter your account details again.
The PlayBook's notification system will continue to (subtly) pester you until both messages (and any others) have been dutifully read.
In general, the PlayBook software was already pretty good, multitasking is slick and despite being developed in Adobe AIR the interface never seems to lag. The lack of email client might have put off some purchasers, who will now be able to buy with confidence, but there's still no support for RIM's BBM service or even RIM's BES architecture: mail is collected using SSL-encrypted IMAP rather than anything stronger.
The PlayBook OS 2 is the same operating system RIM plans for the rest of its portfolio, and it is an incremental improvement on the already nice PlayBook OS 1, but any upturn in PlayBook sales will more likely be down to recent price cuts, with the new software allaying fears rather than recruiting converts. ®
Updated to add
RIM has got in touch to say that Google synchronisation should be possible - and after running through the options with their staff, your humble hack reset his PlayBook and resubmitted all his account details, and happily reports that it is now working with Google's cloud.