The Role of Tablets in the Enterprise
Tablets may one day soon take their place alongside PCs and smartphones as standard-issue IT equipment.
RIM finally released version 2.0 of its PlayBook OS last week, a software update that brings along a number of hotly anticipated features. Despite some criticisms, the general consensus is far from overwhelmingly negative this time around. Indeed, James Kendrick of ZDNet and Dan Rowinski of ReadWriteWeb praised PlayBook 2.0 for delivering outstanding value and being "fully baked," respectively.
Given that competing platforms such as the iOS and Android OS were not created with the corporate environment as a priority, how does the PlayBook OS 2.0 compare from a business-centric point of view? In this review, I highlight some of the new capabilities with an emphasis on its relevance to businesses.
Superior Productivity Apps
There is no doubt that the new stand-alone email client has been vastly improved. Its multi-column interface looks great and relevant controls are neatly lined along the left and right sides of the screen. Messaging services such as Gmail and Exchange Server are supported natively, including messages from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And unlike the iPad, the native messaging client also supports working on multiple emails at the same time, with the ability to easily switch between them.
A lot of thought has clearly been invested on the improved Calendar app, which I found to be highly usable and presented in various layouts designed to maximize the larger display. The new Contacts supports a unified contact list that automatically aggregates contact information from supported social media accounts. The result is an up-to-date contact profile that can be reviewed quickly - you can immediately see if a contact you are about to call is now working elsewhere, for example.
Improved document editing capability makes it possible to perform minor edits of PowerPoint slides directly on the PlayBook, while a new Print To Go app makes it a trivial matter to review all sorts of documents to the PlayBook. Just install the Print To Go driver found here on your PC and print the desired document to the Print To Go printer. Finally, it is now possible to make video calls between PlayBook tablets, which may make it worth deploying PlayBooks as an internal video phone system by itself.
Building on the Strengths
Despite the intense pressure from the large number of tablet manufacturers that have joined the fray, it is heartening to see that RIM has chosen to continue building on its strengths. Aside from the improvements made to key productivity apps mentioned above, the company has forged an even deeper level of integration between BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook platform. For example, it is now possible to click on a document and URL from a BlackBerry smartphone, and opt to launch them on the PlayBook, or to browse through the files of a BlackBerry that is connected via Bridge.