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One of the PlayBook's oddest characteristics is its lack of support for any type of email, contacts, or calendar management software. You see, in order to get those services on the PlayBook -- at least when it launches -- you'll need to tether it to a BlackBerry smartphone via Bluetooth. Not even POP3/IMAP4 internet email accounts are supported out of the box. You will only be able to grab email via the browser.
(Yeah, I know what you're saying. I think it's crazy, too.)
RIM has finally, via a FAQ posted to its support forums, confirmed in writing that the PlayBook will eventually be able to support native email. Here's what RIM said, "In a future software update for the BlackBerry PlayBook, we will also provide native email, calendar, and contact apps for those customers who prefer to have these apps directly on the tablet."
So, email is coming, but not before the April 19 launch. Here's what I think is going on.
First, RIM has been touting the PlayBook's lack of email as an actual feature. You see, without corporate email, contacts, and calendar on the device, it is more secure. (I don't buy this argument, but you might.) Bottom line? The software just isn't ready yet.
Second, the PlayBook is launching with Wi-Fi only. Versions of the PlayBook with access to the carriers' 3G/4G cellular networks aren't coming until later this year. A BlackBerry thrives when plugged into the network, downloading that wonderful push email all the time. A "BlackBerry" without a cellular connection -- i.e., constant internet -- is sort of a moot point when it comes to non-stop email.
My theory is that the software update that brings native email, etc., won't arrive until the cellular data-equipped PlayBooks launch. It feels as though RIM needs more time solidifying how the software works, and the BlackBerry tethering method is a stopgap RIM has put in place to cover its bases at launch. Email will arrive when the constantly connected PlayBooks do.
Yes, we're probably going to see another incomplete, unfinished device -- at least as far as the software is concerned -- in the PlayBook when it launches April 19. (Remember the BlackBerry Storm? That thing wasn't nearly ready for prime-time when it launched.)