Could it be the greatest software update of all time?
Last week, RIM, the beleaguered Canadian company that brought us BlackBerrys, released a simple update to its PlayBook tablet.
And what a difference it makes!
So what did this update do to become a contender for best of all time?
Well, with one fell swoop, a previously lame duck entry in the iPad market has been revitalized. Actually, scratch the "re." Thanks to its OS 2.0, it's vitalized for the first time.
The key was adding a native email app, restoring the "email machine" tag line BlackBerry trumpeted even as its market share nosedived.
That makes the PlayBook a communications hub that sends and receives Twitter DMs, Facebook messages and whatever comes down the pipe from LinkedIn. It's the best email operation in the tablet game. Add BBM and, at the fire sale $200 price point, we're in best-tablet-ever territory.
Then there's the calendar app, again integrated with all the social sites listed above. There's also contacts. And Android apps are now part of the newly renovated BlackBerry App World - very cool compared to the hyper-exclusive App Store (though there's no plan yet for a Netflix app).
And it's much faster.
That's it. Just the meat, potatoes and a native email client. Back to basics.
In the app era, software updates are generally small fixes, incremental upgrades and general annoyances. But this one has resurrected a dying product, taking it from zero to 60 in one email app.
If that doesn't sound impressive, search any review of the PlayBook tablet after its launch in spring 2011. "RIM is dead." "The PlayBook is years behind." "It simply does not compete." "The PlayBook is and always will be inferior." "Not having a native email on its tablet is suicide." "It lost."
And those are just quotes from my own review, though most broadsheet journalists agreed. Sales were dismal, too. At best, PlayBooks were moving off the shelves at 1/10 the rate of iPads.
More than half of PlayBook users have adopted the software update in under a week, which must be some kind of record.
But hold the applause, please. This is software for just one device. There is much to be done to fully resuscitate RIM. The real test will come with the next generation of smartphones, the company's lifeblood.
For the time being, though, this PlayBook upgrade shows the company still has a healthy pulse.