Research in Motion is hoping to lure developers with its PlayBook OS 2.0 software, helping it transition from a smartphone maker to a broader platform provider.
The PlayBook platform’s key features will include a native calendar, e-mail, and contact apps. Owners in the first version had to tether a BlackBerry to their machines to get that functionality.
RIM hopes the OS upgrade will attract more developers to create software for it, especially since they now can integrate more communication features into their apps.
However, attendees at RIM’s low-key event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas said they doubt if the PlayBook’s new features will be enough get people to buy the device when it comes out.
RIM unveiled the PlayBook to much fanfare at last year’s CES event. However, after a year of setbacks, the company is still working more on regaining lost ground.
Last year, RIM held out hope that its PlayBook could compete in the tablet market. The company sold fewer than one million PlayBooks, and the poor sales, along with continued BlackBerry delays, sent the company’s stock to its lowest level in several years.
The 16-, 32-, and 64-gigabyte models, unable to break Apple’s iPad hold on the market, are now all on sale for $300 in BlackBerry’s online store, less than half what the 64-gigabyte model cost.
RIM’s challenges in 2011 included service outages, plummeting sales and more. The 2.0 software update itself was expected last October, but RIM delayed the upgrade until February to allow users to integrate BBM instant message and native e-mail services.
The company’s new line of BlackBerry 10 products are on hold until the second half of this year, possibly another reason for RIM’s low-key presence this year at CES.
RIM vice president Alec Saunders, though, denied the company is in serious trouble, and vowed it will be around for many years to come.
“Let’s not paint the picture that the company is another Nortel, because it just isn’t in that situation, and app developers need to know that,” Saunders told an interviewer from cbc.ca.
“A lot of people look at us and say, ‘Should I build applications for RIM?’ Yeah, you should; there’s 75 million customers you can target,” said Saunders. “This is not a company that is in a situation where we’re not going to be here next week. We are, we’re going to be here for a very long time.”
Saunders admitted the company still has a great deal of work ahead to regain its fortunes and attract the platform developers it needs to regain ground lost in 2011.
BlackBerry still has its devotees, particularly in overseas markets, and if RIM can get its new software and devices out without many more delays, it could still gain sales this year.
On the other hand, RIM’s competitors are also advancing, including Apple, working on the iPhone 5, and Samsung, which is releasing several new top-line models, so RIM will have plenty of competition in 2012 and needs to avoid further setbacks if it hopes to remain solvent.