RIM Unveils Exciting PlayBook Features at BlackBerry World, Including 3D

TORONTO — The Waterloo-based maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone, Research In Motion Ltd (RIM), recently launched its first tablet computer, the BlackBerry PlayBook, over six months after the company first announced the product.

RIM has largely been criticized for releasing the BlackBerry PlayBook without key features when not paired with a BlackBerry smartphone, such as a native e-mail client, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) support, and native calendar support, among other key features that would be expected in a new high-end tablet.

 All of that is about to change in the coming months, as the company announced significant features for its PlayBook during the annual BlackBerry World 2011 Conference today held in Orlando.

Users currently need to pair their BlackBerry smartphone through the BlackBerry Bridge software on the PlayBook to get access to e-mail, BBM, calendar, and other features. The company says all of those applications, including the ability to use BBM without pairing a BlackBerry smartphone, will be made available with software upgrades some time this summer, according to RIM.

RIM also unveiled a new private beta version of BlackBerry Messenger social, a new system that would allow developers to integrate BBM in to their applications.

For example, the social network and location sharing website Foursquare is developing a BlackBerry app that integrates with BlackBerry Messenger, allowing friends to share their check-ins straight with BBM contacts.

RIM says BlackBerry Messenger social will be available to all of the more than 350,000 registered developers this summer.

RIM says more than 43-million people are currently active on BBM.

RIM BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The company also unveiled the new BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 smartphone, which includes a capacitive touchscreen with a full size physical qwerty keyboard, NFC technology, a 1.2GHz processor, and a 5MP camera capable of recording 720P HD videos, among other features.

The new Bold Touch is powered by the new BlackBerry 7 operating system that includes a number of enhancements, including improved HTML5 support with HTML5 video, improved browsing, an improved Java complier, and new features to better manage work and personal content on the device.

The one caveat with BlackBerry 7 OS is that there will be no legacy support, meaning even the latest BlackBerry models currently available will not able to get an upgrade to BlackBerry 7.

One of the more notable announcements at BlackBerry World was that the PlayBook would get 3D capabilities following a software update due by the end of this summer.

Starting today, RIM also made available a new video conferencing application for the PlayBook via a pushed over-the-air update (also available from BlackBerry App World) that finally brings video conferencing capabilities to the PlayBook.

Microsoft chief executive, Steve Ballmer, was also present at the conference today were he announced a new partnership between Microsoft and RIM that would make Microsoft’s Bing search engine the preferred search engine on all upcoming BlackBerry 7 smartphones worldwide. The deal also includes the Bing Maps applications. Bing is already the default search engine on the PlayBook. Terms of the new deal were not publicly disclosed.

The RIM stock (TSE:RIM) closed up about half a basis point to $45.92 per share in today’s trading session on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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Murad is an engineering graduate from Centennial college in Toronto, Canada. Write to [email protected]
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