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Interview Recap: Talking OS 2 with BlackBerry PlayBook Product Manager

By Michelle Haag on 22 Feb 2012 07:23 pm EST
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Yesterday Kevin had an opportunity to sit down with Michael Clewley, one of the Project Managers of the PlayBook team at Research In Motion, about the launch of PlayBook OS 2.0. Held over video chat on the BlackBerry PlayBook, Kevin asked Michael about not only the launch of the new OS and some of the new features, but also about the future of PlayBook OS 2.0 and where it fits in on the road to BlackBerry 10. Since then, Kevin has decided that all interviews on CrackBerry should be conducted over video chat, because it rocks! If you didn't get a chance to watch the interview, you'll want to make sure you take the time to do so. However, if you can't commit to almost 27 minutes, we cover the main points for you after the break.

Kevin started off the interview with easy questions, inquiring about the 5 AM release time for the update. Michael explained that by launching at 5 AM EST, it allowed for the update to be officially available on February 21st everywhere in the world; not the 20th in some time zones, the 21st in others. Such a simple explanation and great reasoning behind something that had many forums members puzzled.

Pointing out how fast the update was compared to previous BlackBerry smartphone OS updates, Kevin expressed that it was unbelievable. No need for tutorials, just follow the on-screen instructions, and in two taps you're done. Michael agreed, saying that what he loves most about the software update, aside from it being fast, is that "you don't have to backup and restore your device, it happens all in the background. All your settings are preserved, you don't have to log back in to anything, which is a huge difference compared to what we go through on the BlackBerry OS today." Following up on the topic of favorite new features of the OS, Michael revealed that his favorite aspect is that "It's social everywhere. In email, in contacts, in calendar, in video chat. It's that social aspect, the integration is everywhere. I can click on a contact and get more information about that person. I can see your last Twitter updates, when we last met together, company news. It's like having a mini-briefing before you do anything."  

Michael is also really excited about the new feature of Video Chat that allows you to see everybody in your contact list that has a PlayBook. No more guessing if someone has the app, instead OS 2.0 scans your address book and detects BBIDs from email addresses. "It's another great way we can leverage the BlackBerry infrastructure and the NOC from that perspective." Regarding what current PlayBook owners are sure to love, he mentions the new home screen, and being able to organize apps the way you want them with folders. Also high on the list for both current and future PlayBook owners is the BlackBerry Bridge update. "People are loving that they can use their BlackBerry as a mouse or keyboard for their PlayBook. People are jazzed about it. People really like that they can hook up the PlayBook to their TV and not only watch movies, but play games with their families. It shows how the devices are better together. "

On the subject of apps, Kevin brought up that a lot of people were disappointed when the PlayBook launched, noting that BlackBerry App World wasn't as full as people were hoping. Things are moving along now, the momentum is there as well as some competition between app and game developers. Michael agreed, adding that  "We've had a huge influx of applications over the last few weeks heading into the launch of PlayBook OS 2.0. I'm pleased to say we have about 10,000 PlayBook apps in the storefront today, with another 1000 waiting to get approved. There's a huge backlog the team is going through now. Now that OS 2.0 is launched, that backlog is going to stay at a steady rate, based on what we're seeing." He then went on to explain that PlayBook OS 2.0 is the foundation for what BlackBerry will be for the next decade plus. "It's a native development environment for developers, a strong web platform. I don't know if you've used the browser yet, but it rocks. It's fast, it renders so well. If you take the HTML5 test scores, it's one of the top browsers out there, it is the top tablet browser and mobile browser. The team's done a lot of work to make sure we're up to date with the latest implementations and we're taking advantage of the platform as well."

Toward the end of the interview, Kevin wanted to clarify where exactly PlayBook OS 2.0 fits in to the migration to the BlackBerry 10 platform. Acknowledging that some things people want (for example native BlackBerry Messenger on the PlayBook) are still missing in this launch and that more is coming in the way of applications and features, and that ultimately BlackBerry 10 will be the platform for phones and tablets, he wondered where this release fits in. "Will we be seeing the branding change, will we still see the UI, will more features be added?" Michael reassured Kevin that this is the foundation for BlackBerry 10, and that a lot of the application platform functionality that's in PlayBook OS 2.0 will continue to be there in BlackBerry 10. "That's a powerful message for developers. It gives them reassurance that they will continue to be successful on the BlackBerry platform. What you're seeing in OS 2.0, the feature set, multitasking, social integration, that's a theme that is going to continue. That communication has always been a strong part of BlackBerry and will continue going forward. This is the start of where we are going."
Michelle Haag Michelle Haag "@_Miche11e_ and C0001B3B5" 1193 (articles) 1683 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Interview Recap: Talking OS 2 with BlackBerry PlayBook Product Manager

25 Comments

I didn't have time to listen to the entire interview... When talking about the apps coming... He mentioned numbers, but I feel from reading in the forums that the major concern is not necessarily quantity (which is what RIM seems focused on) but rather several key big name apps (kindle, netflix, skype etc etc)... Any mention of these? I'm still flummoxed that the nintendo wii can get netflix, but not blackberry??

Forget 3000. I'd be happy to see Skype, Netflix, Kindle, stand-alone BBM messenger, Google Maps, Google Voice and a couple of good rss readers and news aggregators.

If I were running RIM, I would have been willing to foot the porting bill for a half dozen marquee apps, because their availability is *critical* when it comes to selling the device in shops.

Well, Amazon promised Kindle, and then re-negged, so take that up with them. Skype and Netflix I'm hoping to see to, but those are more a case of RIM having to convince those companies that they need to be on BlackBerry, which might be a tough sell, considering that Skype is now owned by Microsoft.

Forget the apps story!
The non-existence of a solution to sync a RIM phone with a RIM tablet stinks! Why do we buy products from the same company if they can’t even talk to each other and otherwise rely on some multi-step-likely-to-cause-chaos approach via Google? Let’s then all buy Google products. If the bridged mail, contacts, and calendar entries cannot be synced on my PlayBook then I might as well sell it (or throw it away, as nobody else wants it then either). Guys, wake up; we are the customers who want products that work and not being forced to find multi-step work-arounds. Have you ever thought about the word “efficiency”?

This is true... And the saaaaaaad reality is.... We'll probably be waiting (like we do for anything out of RIM) for a long long time before they throw a solution (other than the lame-work-around) our way... Not good, not good.

I don't get what the issue is? You can simply bridge and view everything. The solution they have us rock solid and awesome! Better than syncing IMO...

The new 2.0 OS is a nice update. Once I have the ability to print via bluetooth printer and stream Netflix I'll be a happy camper. For now, I'm content with what I can do with my Playbook. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Perhaps we don't have netflix because RIM wants the business for their own video store? To bad the RIM video store isn't in Canada (yet or ever?)

Well RIM's prices for movies are steep. I don't see myself downloading or purchasing movies at the prices they mention. Now if they did something like netflix with a monthly price and push HD video I'd pay up to 20 a month for that.

The whole scanning my contact list for the video chat app worked about 50% only about half of the people in my list that I know have bb id's and playbooks

I don't have 30min, did you ask about when we'll see bluetooth volume control? This is a series function for me because I'm goona build a sleek custom mount that integrates the defender case onto my boat instrument cluster. The stereo is in the glove box on the passenger side so without the aboility to control the volume its pointless.

All I need is an update before summer, approx 5 months from now.

When I use blackberry bridge on my playbook my BBM keeps crashing. Doe anyone have the same problem? If yes, how can I fix it?

strange this happened to me in the beta but got fixed in OS2. Hope it does not come back... did you upgrade?

I would like to know what's keeping bbm still in development and why usb host support hasn't been enabled yet. Why haven't such questions been asked yet to RIM's higher ups?

My thinking is that crackberry is in kahoots with RIM.... Otherwise those important questions would be asked "in the open on record" and not behind closed doors... The only reason for this is... The answers to these questions aren't 'pretty'... If questions about key features like usb host, bluetooth vol. control, major apps, etc etc had good answers - crackberry would have interviews on record asking these questions so RIM can spout the goodness...

YEs what about the nasty questions? Such as integration of your phone (huh!) contacts in the PB contact apps.

And there is still not the social integration that you get on BB phone to 'send' photos to FB, Twitter (where's the app), email etc....

ps saw something about Bluetooth volume control: it is supported now

I have viewed your video chat with the product manager. I find it amazing how clear and uninterrupted your chat session is. I have five playbooks distributed among my family. They are now throughout US and Canada. I am having a difficult time understanding why we cannot get near the video quality you seem to be achieving. Our chat sessions (no matter who is connected to who)is broken continuously. This issue existed with old OS and the new 2.0. What is the secret? Video Chat was the main reason I purchased these playbooks...just get Skype and be done with it.
My only other gripe is not being able to view AVI movies (well you can view but near hear the audio).

Viewing movies and surfing the net though has been a great experience. Very quick and clear. The portability of the playbook makes it a super travel companion.