We've been waiting a while, but the BlackBerry PlayBook finally goes on sale officially in Australia today. I'm keen to get one, but I'll be even keener when a few software enhancements get rolled in.
I've been following the BlackBerry PlayBook project closely ever since it was first announced last September. Regular Lifehacker readers will know that the BlackBerry has long been my smartphone platform of choice, leading me to projects such as working for a week using nothing but a BlackBerry Torch.
That makes me a particularly obvious candidate for using the PlayBook. While it works perfectly well as a standalone tablet, its close integration with the BlackBerry via the BlackBerry Bridge software, which syncs with your email, calendar and tasks via BlueTooth, makes it especially appealing if you are already regularly using a BlackBerry as your major phone. (Browsing your calendar on a seven-inch screen is much easier than on the standard BlackBerry screen.)
I've already written about the pre-release demo of the PlayBook I experienced, and debated with Gizmodo editor Nick over the prospects of for the platform. Ahead of the Australian launch More recently, I got a loan device to play with for a week or two. That gave me the opportunity to properly test BlackBerry Bridge (which is very straightforward to operate) and use the PlayBook more extensively. From that experience, I identified three key areas which I'd like to see improved in the device. That's not to say I think it's a problem to use without them — far from it — but these changes would make it a much more productive device, for me and (I suspect) for others.
A handful of extra key productivity apps. For my working life, the two most essential mobile apps are Dropbox and WordPress — they're the first items I install on any test Android device, for instance. Unfortunately, neither is available in an officially sanctioned version for the PlayBook. There are a couple of unofficial Dropbox clients, but they don't offer enough basic features to be worth considering. I'd really like to see these added. RIM has put a lot of effort into trying to recruit app developers, so I hope this bears fruit.
Rolling out official Android support. Later this year, the PlayBook OS will add the ability to run apps from the Android Market. This won't be an automatic pass to everything on offer there; developers need to recompile their apps to be PlayBook friendly, which means not everyone will bother. But I trust quite a few will, thereby introducing a new depth of app availability to the platform.
Adding a native email client. If you're a BlackBerry owner, the lack of a basic email client isn't a problem — you'll just use Bridge to sync your phone. But I can understand how other users who are tempted by the PlayBook's design, intuitive multitasking and battery life might still be put off by having to access their email via a browser. RIM clearly has no shortage of email smarts, so this really shouldn't be hard to add in.
Anyway, that's my take on where I'd like to see improvements to the PlayBook platform. Got your own thoughts on the PlayBook? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman likes all this tablet competition, even if he hasn't found his own ultimate perfect choice just yet. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.