RIM’s still working hard to make their PlayBook tablet capable of running Android apps, and it looks like they’re getting close to having something ready for primetime. Some pictures from the Sun Yat-sen University BlackBerry lab in Guangzhou China have shown a BlackBerry PlayBook running OS 126.96.36.19992, and besides the long-awaited stand-alone applications for calendar, contacts, and messages, there’s also an Android Player icon that makes an appearance. In the settings menu, there’s also a new Accounts tab, where you can log in to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and standard e-mail accounts.
Updates to the PlayBook operating system are of particular interest because eventually that QNX software will be finding its way onto RIM’s smartphones, which will also likely run Android apps. It’s worth reiterating that it’s not like BlackBerry is switching wholesale to the Android OS, and you won’t have access the Android Market, but developers will be able to submit their creations to App World, and you’ll likely be able to sideload apps with a bit of elbow grease. Being able to access e-mail and other core productivity apps without having to Bridge over Bluetooth to a BlackBerry smartphone is a long time coming, that’s for sure. I worry that those turned off from the PlayBook because of this bizarre turn may have already pulled the trigger on a different tablet, but for those that haven’t maybe PlayBook 2.0 will have all the right gaps filled.
The only x-factor at this point is the quality of the Android emulator. The early beta we’ve seen didn’t run particularly smoothly, but the on-stage demo seemed to do well enough. The PlayBook has plenty of horsepower to pull off this kind of thing, but it feels like it’s taking forever to bring those capabilities to bear. The native development kit is working its way out to developers now too, so hopefully we’ll see a bunch of rich 3D games around the same time as this OS 2.0 software gets out.