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How Will BlackBerry PlayBook Native Email & PIM Work?


I have been meaning to write this piece for awhile now but every time I start thinking about it my head starts to hurt. Since the PlayBook launched we have heard reviewers harping about how you “need a BlackBerry” to get email on the device. RIM took it all in stride and announced that native email and PIM (Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, etc) are coming “this summer” for the BlackBerry PlayBook. They even showed off how it will look with a live demo. The thing is I am really curious about is how exactly RIM is planning on making it work.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think it is impossible in any way I am just curious what the workflow will be and if it will change the current BlackBerry smartphone paradigm. I understand why RIM is taking their time on releasing the native Email and PIM clients since they need to build the infrastructure to bring QNX to BlackBerry smartphones. They also need to include all of the BES integration and security/certifications required for a business call RIM device which does not happen overnight. The thing is I see many forks in the road for RIM on how exactly email and PIM will be handled on the PlayBook especially when you consider it from both a BIS (consumer) and BES (enterprise) perspective. Keep in mind many of these “forks” are similar for any tablet or companion device and not just the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The Split Personality Conundrum

When you get an email will both your PlayBook and BlackBerry or other smartphone notify you? I can see myself in a meeting scrambling to silence two devices. How about calendar reminders? If you snooze it on your PlayBook will it automatically snooze on your phone? What about if you read an email or accept a calendar invite will you have two different calendars? Better yet what if you send a calendar invite from your smartphone then will it also show up on your PlayBook?

I realize BES might solve some of these issues with synching to an exchange server but what about regular BIS users? Don’t get me wrong other tablets have similar issues but the elegance and simplicity of the BlackBerry Bridge suddenly makes sense. I am hoping RIM wont go down the route of using desktop manager as a way to reconcile the two devices like other tablets do.

How Many Sets of the Truth?

Similar to what I said above their is a bit of a tricky issue in terms of synching. For example, If you add a contact on your PlayBook native contacts app will it come over to your BlackBerry? How about vice versa? Will you have to deal with multiple different lists of contacts between the device?

This gets even more complicated once you start walking out the door. Currently you can get all of the latest email and PIM on your PlayBook through the BlackBerry Bridge. What happens when you throw in native email and PIM? If you have a 4G or Wi-Fi connection that could work but what happens if you don’t? Will you have to open the bridge to get the latest email or will it reconcile itself? Will the native email and PIM clients use the BlackBerry smartphone to download yet another copy of the email? That does not sound like something RIM would do.

Bigger Pipes Means…

Right now the way BIS and BES email and PIM infrastructure works is all about conserving data. That concept does not fit in well with native email and PIM on the PlayBook in many use cases. Say you are at home over a Wi-Fi connection but want to walk out of the house. It would not make sense for RIM to do what it does now and only deliver the first few lines of an email and no attachments since you might not have a network connection later. That means quite a bit more data transfer going through RIM’s NOCs.

United or Divided?

Right now the strongest use case for the BlackBerry PlayBook is for users who have a BlackBerry smartphone who can make use of the slick BlackBerry Bridge features. The question is how RIM will decide to execute their strategy to both entice BlackBerry and non BlackBerry smartphone toting users.

I would really love to hear what you all think about native email and PIM on the BlackBerry PlayBook and its future on BlackBerry smartphones. Feel free to ask any questions or expand on what I wrote above in the comments!

13 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Really, at the end of the day, there are two main routes they can take:
    1) BES/BIS over the PlayBook’s Internet connection
    2) An actual E-Mail client that uses the PlayBook’s Internet connection

    I think most non-BB-using people actually want #2, but I suspect RIM is more likely to be working on #1. Of course if RIM does #1, then there’s still a place for 3rd party solutions. (I’m sorry, but BIS really sucks in comparison to normal e-mail clients for anyone who uses IMAP.) We’re still waiting to see what happens with AiFlex aMail, and anything similar, so the next few weeks will be interesting.

  2. As long as they improve the performance of the Blackberry Bridge, I see no reason why I would need native Email and PIM functions.

    I don’t see why anyone with a BB needs a native email and PIM really…..

  3. Right now, I have Blackberry Bridge open all the time. It does have a lag, particularly if you are attaching a large file. But it works fairly well and we can expect that it will improve as its updated. But one of the problems with the Bridge is it takes a bluetooth “slot”, which means I can’t have my headset, my car sync and the Bridge all working at once. Or a keyboard, wireless mouse, etc. And the Bridge connection also causes interference with the headset. So even though the Bridge is a solution, it is an imperfect one. I route most of my email accounts through my Torch, and those that I don’t I can check on the web, so if and when Aiflex’s aMail gets released, or RIM rolls out native email, it won’t be that much of a difference, but I would rather have the full functionality and speed without the nits associated with the Bridge.

    I’m not sure what the poster above means about the shortcomings of BIS, which I used for years with few problems. During that time, it has saved my bacon when our Exchange server went down, as I was able to move emails with very large attachments through without issue. At one point early on, the file size limit was too low, but as long as RIM accounts for increased data, the BIS model works for me. Of course, the syncing would be all the more critical to keep everything consistent without a prolifferation of copies.

    At the end of the day, as an end-user, I don’t care what method RIM uses, so long as its safe, fast and reliable, but it is of continuing interest to me to read about what the experts are thinking about.

    • BIS works fine for sending E-Mail. No argument there.

      But for receiving E-Mail, it only sees the INBOX, doesn’t always reliably sync message state. (e.g. flags, deleted messages, etc.), and uses a 15 minute poll-and-forward loop. Some of this works better for certain services (e.g. Gmail). And POP users wouldn’t know the difference, because POP itself doesn’t offer much more. However, IMAP users are used to getting the same view of all their messages and mailboxes everywhere they check their e-mail from.

      As an IMAP user who makes extensive use of server-side filtering of messages into mailboxes, any solution that doesn’t see *all* my folders and message states isn’t that useful to me.

      • Good points. I know we actually use 2 methods for relaying messages sent to an Exchange address to the Blackberries, one of which has the delay, the other of which does not (and we do not have a dedicated Blackberry server, so we don’t use the RIM Express option to enhance the process). I know that if you use Outlook Rules to route certain emails to Inbox sub-folders, they don’t get to the Blackberry at all (and you only know it when you log back in to Outlook).

        But its never impacted my work to any great extent, it has led my IT guy to prefer that we use Iphones, Droids or Windows phones because the syncing is easier for him.

  4. This is one of the most attractive of the many attractive features of the PlayBook for me. I don’t want my email, calendar and contacts residing on a device that can be easily stolen or accidentally left behind.

    I also like the bridge feature – I’m not a BB owner now but I plan on becoming one in September. I like knowing that my personal data is encrypted on a locked, highly secure device that never leaves its holster and that I don’t need a separate data plan for the remote access for my tablet.

    • I would hope they use the BIS/BES network so they can integrate it with their other apps and BlackBerry Bridge. Hopefully, they also offer an option to activate/de activate this feature for those who do not want to keep emails on their PlayBook.

  5. you guys sound like phone companies when it come to this device. I really believe its smart. who cares about a 3g/4g device. let me explain, you can use any phone, i repeat any phone to tether data. before i left the states i was using my friends thunderbolt just to see how fast the 4g was. I was really impressed by it another friend of mine who has a verizon iphone and pad thought it was cool too, to not have to pay two data plans. as far as the bridge goes when does a company get it right the first time. I never recalling google or apple getting it right the first time. if anything we shouldn’t trust the analyst on wall street because, after all didnt we have to bail them out? I rest my case.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Marcus.

      It seems like the “me too” journalists take great delight in bashing this great piece of tech. It’s amazing that when Apple or Google have bugs in their products, none of the press are out there calling those products crap and predicting the demise of these companies.

      Add to this the investment types (members of the Fraternal Order of Hyperactive Lemmings”) constantly downgrading RIM shares based on their perception of the marketplace, making it tough for any publicly-traded company to introduce new ideas. I’ve worked with some of the Wall Street experts – they’re your basic self-obsessed knobs that really don’t know much about their acclaimed area of expertise. Most of their statements of fact are in fact based on unfounded rumors.

      Unfortunately for the rest of the world, these combined opinions serve well to prevent excellent tech from succeeding.

      i sincerely hope RIM proves them all wrong.

      • You know what image comes to mind when I think about those guys? Someone in business attire telling you his thoughts on RIM’s demise, and about how all the money is with the iPhone, all while checking and responding to messages on his BlackBerry! 🙂

  6. obviously it doesn’t work for everybody, but even once native email is added I personally plan on continuing to just use bridge. It takes care of the sync problem and i dont have to worry if i am getting wifi or not.

  7. I think they should improve bridge use for BB owners and for other just create something like we’ve already seen by Then RIM should say if you want secure email use blackberry otherwise your email is not secure just as it is not secure on any other device in the market.

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