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RIM showing off PlayBook OS 2.0 at CES: New email app, BlackBerry Video Store, coming in February

RIM’s been busy unveiling BlackBerry OS 7.1 at CES this year, the platform update that’ll finally see BlackBerry Tag hitting NFC-enabled BlackBerry phones.

All jolly good stuff of course, but what about PlayBook OS 2.0? The long-awaited update that ought to bring support for Android apps and games as well as a whole load of other things? Well hold your horses; RIM has announced that it’ll be previewing the new version of its tablet OS at CES and has outline what we ought to expect in a comprehensive statement.

“BlackBerry PlayBook is already recognised for delivering powerful performance, true multi-tasking, 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.”

Sadly, there’s not even a whiff of a mention of Android, Android apps or the Android Market or apk’s. Not yet anyway.

There’s other stuff, worth getting excited for. Plus it looks like PlayBook OS 2.0 is on track for that fabled February release date. Here’s the lowdown so far:

A new ‘unified’ inbox

Finally – a native email app for the BlackBerry tablet. Some of you in the comments disagreed with us when we said that this was a missing feature, rightly pointing out that you can access your emails through the PlayBook’s excellent browser.

Though true, the new unified inbox sounds like just what the PlayBook needs, an all-in-one messaging centre that “allows users to quickly manage their personal email and work email accounts as well as the messaging capabilities of popular social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and others.”

From this inbox, you’ll be able to compose replies with a full support of fonts and formatting options, edit signatures and out of office messages as well as search across multiple email accounts.

Browser gets a new ‘reading view’

Designed to “eliminating page clutter at the touch of a button,” the new reading view sounds promising and ideal for sifting through text-heavy articles. Sounds like it’d be useful if you want to save battery and want a cleaner, text-centric browsing experience.

Better social network integration

Contact info from ‘multiple sources’ can be pinned added to the PlayBook’s contacts folder and the calender app with PlayBook OS 2.0. Contact info will updated “automatically,” with recent updates, conversations, mutual friends and related info populating individual contact entries.

We’re hoping for something along the lines of Windows Phone Mango with Facebook and Sony Ericsson’s Facebook Inside Xperia here.


BlackBerry Bridge-ing the gap

The function of BlackBerry Bridge is expanded beyond a way to tether your PlayBook to a 3G connection – post OS 2.0 you’ll be able to use your BlackBerry phone as more of a remote control for your PlayBook.

In a similar way to Xbox Companion for Windows Phones and, to a lesser extent the today-announced Sky+ iOS apps, you’ll be able to pause and skip through movies that are being streamed from your PlayBook via HDMI.

In a nice move, the you’ll also be able to use your BlackBerry phone to write messages or documents on a PlayBook, effectively turning your phone into a portable wireless keyboard. Using the PlayBook’s “larger high resolution display for an optimised viewing and editing experience,” you can use BlackBerry Bridge to “take documents, emails, multimedia files and web pages found on your smartphone and open them quickly and directly on the BlackBerry PlayBook.”

Documents To Go will allow for easier editing, with over 100 new functions added and the Print To Go app will allow you to sent print jobs to compatible devices over Wi-Fi.

More apps heading to App World – who needs Android apps?

Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Zinio, Groupon are all available/or are coming to PlayBook. What Android Market? There’s also mention of a BlackBerry Video Store, a movie rental service that looks to be US only for the time being. With HTC Watch, Google/YouTube Movies and now Netflix available in the UK, we wonder if this will make a game-changing impact, but hey, BlackBerry owners want to rent movies too. Let’s hope that any DRM issues are nixed so that you can watch movies that you’ve paid for via HDMI.

Sounds great – when’s it out?

Alas, nothing more solid than a ‘February 2012’ release date has been mentioned; we hope that before the time Mobile World Congress kicks off RIM would have got PlayBook OS 2.0 ready for delivery. That Android apps thing as well – we’re not going to be satisfied ’til we’ve heard something concrete and official on this from RIM.

Either way, this is good stuff for PlayBook owners whether you’ve had one since launch or you’ve opportunistically snapped one up for peanuts. It’s also got us thinking how BB10 might well shape up when it gets launched later this year.

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