More BlackBerry PlayBook questions answered - multitasking, moving homescreen icons, menu options, etc.

By Kevin Michaluk on 7 Jan 2011 10:43 am EST

We're making a list of all of the BlackBerry PlayBook questions you have and will work today on getting them answered, but in the meantime we recorded this little follow-up vid yesterday taking another look at some of the features and UI elements on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Multitasking - RIM is really pushing true multitasking as one of the features that sets the PlayBook apart as a professional tablet. In a lot of the video demos you see a movie still running as you jump into another app. In the video above we see the PlayBook definitely has the horsepower to handle a bunch of open apps.

A BlackBerry experience with no Menu Key - BlackBerry Smartphone users live and die by the BlackBerry button, or menu key (the one to the left of the trackball/trackpad). That's where all of your menu options are that allow you do things beyond what you can see on the display. In the video above, we take a look how the new OS handles this. Suffice to say, it's a pure touchscreen experience. Option elements are either presented via a button, such as the edit pencil on the homescreen for when you want to re-arrange homescreen icons, or are swiped in, such as when you're in the web browser and want to jump between open tabs. It's definitely a different sort of BlackBerry experience.

Keep those questions coming in the comments... and we'll keep coming back with more answers!

Reader comments

More BlackBerry PlayBook questions answered - multitasking, moving homescreen icons, menu options, etc.


Man this thing is fast. To have all that stuff running in the background, and still load a webpage and navigate around the device with almost no lag is impressive. And apparently, it's still not 100% optimized.

This is the future of computing. No need to have multiple PC's / Laptops for general purpose office work. Carry this sucker around, dock it at home and at work with a monitor and keyboard, or use it as is when in a coffee shop or out and about.

Will we be able to stream netflix onto the playbook? I love everything about the playbook, I think if we could view netflix movies or movies of anykind, that will enhance the experience more.

Will it play mkv files??
I have many mkv's from my bluray collection at home it would be wonderful to take them
Will it support AC3 audio (5.1)

MKV isn't a codec, it's a container. Blu-ray rips almost universally are H.264 video so you're good there. I expect that list for audio playback is for the music player, it's quite possible for the video player to support additional codecs. I saw Dan Dodge quoted as saying they wanted to hardware accelerate as many video codecs as possible, even old ones that aren't in wide use anymore. I'd expect that extends to audio codecs too. Current BBs can already play more audio codecs than are in that list.

What I still want to see demo'ed is this Kevin:

- Pair a handheld to the PB
- Turn off w-fi
- Hit the BB functions
- Hit the Internet

But I still want to see the internet browser speed whit a blackberry phone paired and wifi turned off.

thats not something they`ll want to demo in such a packed environment as CES or any other show, if ya listen to them talk about signal in general in the podcast its not great for all their phones, thats more a `when its in a reviewers hands` situation i guess

What a great advantage would that be over other tablets if you could use your handheld blackberry Torch, Bold or Curve as a wireless keyboard/mose... Imagine you have the Playbook hooked to your TV over HDMI, you are sitting on the couch and controlling your Playbook... Makes too much sense!! Come on RIM!

Would be cool .... Especially if your in a meeting and can control your slideshow on the playbook through your berry! *cough* rim??

That would be a great function, for both business and recreation. Fortunately, even if RIM doesn't include that, it could be pretty easily handled by an app, yeah?

With the torch you can click an icon on the screen hold it and then a menu appears where you can select move icon (among other things), so you really don't need to use the bb key, that being said it hing the playbook is awesome. I might get one once the're out in the Netherlands depending on two factors: battery life and price.

So you have 4 movies playing at once (but one of them stopped part way through) and you can still fluidly navigate the UI and use the browser with under 3 seconds of rendering during scrolling? And it's not optimized yet!?!?!?! What more do they need to do for optimization? Will they make it so that you can be watching 20 movies at once and have <0.1 seconds rendering time???


Any chance of seeing QUAKE 3 or another comparable game running on it, think that how it handles games could be a clincher seeing how historically BBs havent .


They've been hinting at some big name game partners so I am sure announcements will be made before the launch of the device. With POSIX compliance and a Native C/C++ SDK with Open GL support there will be some powerful games rolling out for the PB.

That's one thing I wanted to see, copy and paste. And is it universal, meaning you can copy and paste anywhere?

Dose it have gps or can it use the gps on your phone and something like google maps?
To add to Dodger52's comment .... Can you click and hold an icon? Dose it bring up some options?

It has a GPS.... and Google Maps works just fine. I've been doing a Google Maps app since the day they released the first SDK.

One of the best things regarding an android tablet is the google maps and navigation. I personally use Blackberry Maps for navigating. Is RIM reengineering Blackberry Maps to better utilize the processing the playbook has and is RIM going to try to compete with google maps or navigation by having a navigation software on the playbook?

Are you specifically looking for an app? You wouldn't want to go to on your PlayBook? Google might come out with an app but I don't think the PlayBook has GPS biult in so I don't know how useful an app would be unless the GPS from the smartphone can be used.

Will it be able to sink with more than one blackberry? Not that the answer will in anyway stop me from jumping on this when it drops. Just curious...

It's designed to be easily transferable in an enterprise environment. If you look at the BlackBerry Bridge video they showed, all you need is the app on your phone and then take a picture of the PB barcode and you're paired.

The PB does not tie itself to one device. It's the same as pairing any bluetooth device.

Truely impressive

When talking abt Multi-tasking, it should also have a multiple desktop or atleast 2 different screens where for example a movie playing on TV via HDMI through PlayBook and should be able to do our regular stuff on PB by not disturbing the movie playback.

Example 2: in a meeting, powerpoint presentation or some project video playing and while meeting members watching it we can search for other files or check emails without disturbing what's going through the HDMI port

That will be more powerful or should be there before some other could introduce a Linux like tablet ;)

Mr. Lazaridis said at the Adobe event that the PB can do exactly that. A user can output video and still work on the home screen.

Question: How does the Playbook using internet in connection with the Blackberry?
I mean is it like tethering or is the Playbook just like a mirror ?

In other words: Is it like a connected Laptop ?

Hi Kevin.gr8 presentation on CES for playbook. have some questions if you can answer.
1: does it have a vertical switching mode instead of only horizontal?
2: will it support skype videocall or just calls through wifi, since as i have understand will not be able to have a sim card in?

ty in advanced for your answer

You have to have more questions than multitasking and menu movements...

1) Will I be able to download a standalone mail, calendar, and contact application from the App World that doesn't require tethering an existing blackberry?

Thanks for numbering the questions, I almost got lost lol.

A1) If someone make standalone apps for these purposes App World will have them. My guess is you'll have tons of choices.

Here are a few more questions:

1. Understand that we will be able to use the PlayBook in portrait mode, will we be able to use a keyboard in that mode too? Will we be able to utilize SureType as an option in portrait mode too (like on a Storm/Storm2)?

2. How will OS updates be handled?

3. Will this interface with the existing Desktop Manager software?

4. First release will be a wifi-only version correct? Has RIM confirmed that any carrier offering it will ensure support for the BlackBerry devices to connect with the PlayBook via BlueTooth (using that connect app)?

5. When the PlayBook is not connected to a BlackBerry, will they sync information upon re-connection (a-la BES style)?

6. Summer brings Sprint WiMAX connectivity. Are they planning on rolling out an LTE PlayBook, and will all of these be able to roll back to 1X/EV-DO?

Nice reviews of information so far Kevin, thanks!!

1. Of course it will have a portrait keyboard. SureType no.
2. Probably with a desktop manager of some kind.
3. If not they will make a Tablet specific one.
4. Connect app will be on App World. Not sure what this question is.
5. Nothing gets synced, as RIM has stated multiple times the information is only on the phone and not retained on the playbook.
6. You're not gonna get an answer to this.

My questions:

- Ability to play 1080p mkv without reencoding?

- Which games developpers are following RIM on this project? Will I have Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Smurf Village, EA HD games, Gameloft HD games when the PB will be released? Or will I have to wait so many months and never see it coming?

- What about international apps? Will I be able to have the same apps than I can have on the ipad in France (banks: HSBC France, American Express France, BNP Paribas, SOciété Générale - newspapers: LeMonde, Le Figaro, Liberation - radios & TV: BFM, C+ etc)? Because all of this apps are already available on ipad and Android and we still miss it in the French Blackberry App World...


1. An app for skype?
2. Hopefully flash compatibility means that PDF will be available, right?
3. Will the bridge be compatible with the BB 9500/9550?
4. If the PB will be a sort of monitor for my BB, can it just act like that? I want to zoom some apps that might delay a bit on being release on the PB

Skype - Yup!

Take a look at the BlackBerry appworld for Playbook article,
it's featured on the homepage, so that's a pretty darn big thumbs up.

Dunno if its already been asked but it hasn't been answered...

Can we rearrange the order of the opened apps without having to close and reopen them, so if I wanted to side scroll like you did and I wanted my media player next to my word doc can I switch the order of the windows...?

Thanks Kevin!!!!!!!

nice, im assuming when the blackberry conference comes about, they'll introduce storm 3 with the clickety screen :D

LOVE THE UI of the playbook, just needs SD integration and/or some form of external memory

Great reviews Kevin. I dont know if this has been asked yet. I know they said you can use your BB as a modem for the playbook but will this cost extra? For example can i surf the web on my Playbook when it is paried with my BB for no extra cost?

We should ask them of course. Because there are two ways how the Playbook (if it is connected woth the Blackberry).
Nr 1: it is a modem and it's connected like a blackberry and a laptop
NR 2: it is connected with the blackberry and uses the same option as the blackberry do

I just have a comment for people asking if certain apps will be ready by launch date or available in their area.......and this is not in any way meant to offend anyone at all but, instead of waiting for RIM to get people to develop these apps or games for the PB why not just ask these institutions or devs who are already putting these apps out on other platforms if they plan on developing or having support for the PB. I mean, it would make more sense to bug them so they know that there's actually going to be interest and demand for PB support. After all it's the consumer who dictates what gets developed and what doesn't. Your product experience depends on you.

Fair enough... From the one asking about apps ;-)
But if we push it on both side, should be better don't you think?

Will the Playbook have access to the GPS in a Blackberry smartphone over that bluetooth connection?

Will the Playbook be able to access a corporate network through the BES connection of a Blackberry smartphone?

It doesn't need to connect to the BlackBerry smartphone's GPS as it has a built-in GPS itself. The PlayBook connects to BES through the BlackBerry Smartphone - think of it as a terminal off of the BlackBerry Smartphone. Bigger monitor/keyboard. Once the tether is dropped so is all the data on the PlayBook. It will maintain the (very good) security of the BlackBerry smartphone.

That's the first I've heard of the Playbook having GPS.

As far as the BES connection, I understand how access to the smartphone's email and PIM work. I was wondering about the Playbook's browser being able to access corporate intranet sites through the BES connection.

QUESTION ---How long does it take to boot the device? I'm not sure if this has been asked yet.


I Like, I Need, I Have to Have but not until I get the NEWS (confirmed Leaks) that a Storm 4G is gonna be released so I have a two great devices to tether together!!!!!!! So if No Storm NO Playbook for Me

Some questions:
1. Will the PlayBook have a built-in FM Reciever and Transmitter? That would be cool, but I doubt it.
2. How does Copy and Paste work?
3. Will the browser have tabbed browsing?
4. Will you be able to download music and videos into the playbook from anywhere, or will it be like the ipad/touch/phone(only a specific place)?
5. Will cameras have different frame/border designs for family photo taking?
6. How easy will it be to put music, pictures and videos into the PlayBook?
7. Does the PlayBook have an LED notification light like all BlackBerries?

One of my biggest complaints on the Playbook is: Why didn't they add a camera flash? Other questions...why not use Bluetooth 3.0 and no ADLN? Does it have a SD/MicroSD card slot? I'd like to transfer my camera pics to Facebook using the Playbook. Lastly, I'd like to see Swype added to make it easier to type faster and where's the MS office integration- I do have to work you know. A couple more things to add that other people gave ideas on: FM Radio built in, GPS, ability to type/control playbook using your BB cell, world clock, alarms to wake up up at different times of the day, tethering/wifi hotspot ability, tabbed browsing and ability to save favorites.

I'm not sure when ces ends, but if it isn't already over then please try is an answer on blackberry messenger groups (specifically the lists in them) when you sync with the playbook. As I use these a lot this would be a very important part of the syncing.

it would be great if they added video chat to bbm and make this tablet into a 4'' phone maybe call it the storm 3 and make a 10'' and 12'' version of the tablet.

I'm from Europe and really jealous that we got the good stuff later than the Americans.

Question: What about a the 4G (or a 3G) version of the PlayBook, will it be available in Europe (Germany)?

I think the big question that's on everybody's mind that has not yet gotten a firm answer yet is: Will Blackberry smartphone Internet tethering be supported on the first version of the Playbook? There has been speculation and RIM even commented on it during the early development of the PB, but then I read somewhere a couple of months ago that the feature may not show up on the PB until later versions. So will there or wont there be Internet tethering? I did'nt see or hear anything mentioned about it from the news out of CES. This could be a dealbreaker for me and i'm sure many others.

I have a new playbook - two questions

1. I have an email icon indicating 2 unread messages - all messages have been read. How do I clear this?

2. how do you move the icons around on the tablet? There is no pencil on my toolbar or recycle bin to delete unwanted icons


Can you please help me i have a blackberry curve 8520 and i cant play any videos. it keeps telling me "Device media processor is busy." I tried everything to make this right. Hope you can help me. Thank You