You've surely checked out our BlackBerry PlayBook preview by now, so you know that we're very impressed with the state of the tablet at this point in time. Still, we're somewhat dumbfounded by the lack of native messaging and calendar clients, and until now we've been in the dark on exactly how RIM planned to execute this. Enter BlackBerry Bridge -- the app suite that allows your Bluetooth-tethered BlackBerry device to manage your Messages, Calendar, and -- yes -- BBM. Head past the break for a video of these in action (sorry it's a little shaky and loud, we were on the floor), as well as a quick rundown of some of the basics -- and we've got a bonus gallery of some first-party PlayBook accessories thrown in for good measure.
The two handhelds are automagically kept perfectly in sync so long as you're within Bluetooth range: send an e-mail from the PlayBook and it shows up as sent on your BB screen, add or delete events from calendar on one device and changes show up accordingly. Finally, BBM on the gorgeous 7-inch screen will make the true fanboys and girls go gaga -- even things like delivery and read confirmation are synced between the two (though we didn't get to check out sending an image or the venerable PING!!!). These apps look pretty minimal at this point, but like most other aspects we've seen thus far, we're kind of digging it. This early build had trouble running all three apps simultaneously, but we'll chalk that up to simple software glitches and we're sure it'll get sorted before this slate ships later in Q1.
We're really glad to see that RIM has a solid implementation for this stuff, but that still doesn't detract from the fact that you need to own a BlackBerry to get all this functionality. Even cheap Android tablets and the PMPs have these capabilities off the shelf, and it's really inexcusable for the company to expect non BlackBerry users to switch for the sole purpose of this basic stuff. Since the device doesn't have a PIN -- at this point at least -- it's not looking too good for users of other mobile platforms, and we're curious about how it'll end up working should RIM change its tune. We understand that there are possible security issues (and let's face it, the company still caters mainly to the enterprise), but it just isn't acceptable for this thing to not have native apps for such no-brainer functions. Yes the browser is pretty awesome and can load Gmail just fine, but the BlackBerry's claim to fame is its stellar messaging services and it seems kind of unholy that it still has a big ole BlackBerry logo up front but can't do any push services without another dedicated device. We're hoping that at some point between now and the time this launches RIM will see the writing on the wall and the PlayBook will get the stuff in due time(See update below). For now though, see the bridge in action in our hands-on video from the show floor.
Update: Well, it looks like we may have spoken too soon. An interview with Ryan Biden (the Senior Product Manager of the PlayBook team) just posted to the Inside BlackBerry blog confirms that "there will be a native e-mail, calendar, contacts, all those similar kinds of apps as the platform evolves." The interesting stuff starts around 3:40.
Joshua Topolsky & Paul Miller contributed to this post