It Might Actually Be Impossible For The BlackBerry PlayBook To Do Native Email!



One commonly cited reason why RIM’s would-be iPad killer sucks is that it doesn’t even have email and calendar support natively. To get the PlayBook to run email, you have to tether it to your BlackBerry, which is just stupid.

It’s about to get stupider, though. A new report is suggesting that the PlayBook doesn’t suck at email so much by design as by a complete lack of foresight. It might actually be impossible for the PlayBook to do email natively… at least without RIM radically overhauling their backend.

Here’s the problem, according to a source who consulted with a director of BlackBerry Product Management.

According to this director, the BlackBerry Email System is completely incapable of allowing two devices to access the same account. This worked just fine when people just carried a BlackBerry in their pocket and updated it occasionally with a new device, but now that people are carrying around tablets, the BES just cant cope.

“The Blackberry email system is the BES — which is the source/focus of all the famous BB security. The BES email server has the concept of one user = one device (or they call it PIN).”

When RIM built its system it didn’t see ahead to realize there would be a time when a user could have a smartphone and a tablet. So now it has “significant work to make the BES support multiple devices.”

RIM should be able to rearchitect its system, but our source points out, it’s “a lot of work to change something that’s pretty basic in the software architecture and design.”


  • Aj Tk427

    Well this would explain why it has to tether.  I could never get my head around exactly what logic RIM used when they came up with this idea.  This is a pretty good explanation as to why.

  • Barton Lynch


  • ChrisFish

    Coffin, meet Nail.

  • GregsTechBlog

    Apple designs their mobile OS so you don’t need to use a computer to use it.
    RIM designs their OS so you need a Blackberry to use the tablet.

    I wonder why they’re having trouble selling their products…

  • dagamer34

    It’s not as bad as it sounds, but the fact that there’s NO native e-mail client at all means you can’t setup Gmail, IMAP, or any other Exchange account on your device. You have to use a web app, and that’s just plain bonkers.

  • Howie Isaacks

    Well what’s the use then?  Is RIM smoking crack?  No wonder Apple is kicking everyone else’s ass in the tablet market.

  • Aj Tk427

    Yes, but just imagine if they had a native email client, 
    RIM – “works with Gmail, IMAP, or any other Exchange account, just not our email”
    Talk about fail

  • Flowdown


  • DavidLundquist

    Hahaha After reading your article I have concluded you are not qualified to even chew gum but you may be an Apple Zealot.  You clearly don’t know squat about BES, own a PlayBook or have clue one what youre writing about.

    BTW the RIM Playbook uses blue tooth not a bunch of wires like your photo. 

  • TheBasicMind

    So now this is the choice. Offer a native email client the market is crying out for but that doesn’t support your flagship service OR steadfastly refuse to deliver a native email client meeting the needs of the market. Hmmm great choice. 

    In my view, when you look at the opportunity cost of not getting into the market with an effective presence, they should swallow pride and offer a native email client for generalised mail services. Maybe they could just about get away with making it a tiny little bit less capable than the blackberry bridge client. If they package it right – ahem, slow down the native client so it doesn’t embarrass the bridge client – they may just be able to salvage something from this train wreck, but I didn’t just suggest that, and Blackberry, if that’s what you’re doing, you didn’t hear it from me. 

    Clearly the whole security spin justifying bridge was always BS.I have to admit, reading the headline, I thought, “no, you can do anything in software and there simply can’t be such a limitation,” but on reading it’s a back end service issue, wheeeeew, if they have to extensively modify a live system, it could take them some time to sort out.Well, if there are any development houses out there that chose to start developing a native email client, they are going to be laughing. Or maybe not if Blackberry sell no tablets. 

  • TheBasicMind

    Well that was illuminating David, you’ve certainly dispelled the thrust of the argument there with your convincing and detailed exposition of why John was wrong.

  • SbMobile

    Just another nail in the coffin! Poor RIM. Clearly, dying a slow death is much worse than anything else. Slow & embarrassing. lol

  • Mark Skinner2

    Whoever buys a playbook needs their heads read.

    Sent from my iPad

  • AppleMoron

    what a bunch of morons you apple koolaid drinkers are.

  • Don Pope

    Title is a little backwards. It’s more like Blackberry Mail can’t support the Playbook tablet.

  • Wayne_Luke

    This doesn’t explain why the device cannot do email though. I’ve never used Blackberry Internet Service before. So along with this thinking, I can go buy a Playbook, open an account and create my one email tied to the device. Except it doesn’t work that way. The Playbook still won’t do email because it doesn’t have software to do email.

    The simply fix would be to allow users to link two email accounts together through forwarding. Yeah, people with multiple devices would have two email accounts but they don’t need to change their system to get it to work. However this still doesn’t make email available on the Playbook. It doesn’t have the software support for it.

    The biggest failure here is that they didn’t write the software in the first place.

  • OniBerry

    Actually, Mr. Brownlee is partially correct. But he did not intend it to be so. Three devices (BES enabled 8520) (BES/BIS enabled 9780) and a Playbook [Sidenote: Not sure why the mHDMI cable and both the berry’s and Playbook’s cables are all plugged in for the shot, generally in the Tech industry it is considered bad form] I am not going to get into the how/why/what was done/at what time, suffice it to say that all three work very well together, complimentary even.
    Those who are rocking an andro or iphone are sort of left hanging. I was truly interested when I saw the title of the article, but after reading it through, I realize that Mr. Brownlee doesn’t truly understand the technology he was writing about.
    Playbook isn’t an ipad killer, and funny enough, I have only heard that coming from those who tend to be partial to apple. Apple should be worried about the Mech with Spec (Android!)

    Ok, so, yes RIM may have overlooked something, but imo they did not. I mean, any happy android user or iphone/pad/2 user is not really their primary demo. Until the LTE/3G/4G models come out and the carriers know that some $$$ will be coming their way, I am quite sure that RIM believed (somewhat in error) that they did not really need a native email client. Most initial customers would be from those that already have a Blackberry, or were about to buy one, and for the corporate customers, who have been asking RIM for a tablet for almost three years. While it IS true at this moment there isn’t any native email/calender/PIN or NOC connectivity, there will be, once the carrier models are released this summer. Citing an article from March 19th, 2011 and then using it to justify what you wrote? Not cool Mr. Brownlee. After reading your bio, I expected more.

  • foxinkent

    Balanced view:

    If you are going to kick ass, do it fairly.

    Agreed – it is poor management to release a tablet without native email and PIM. The latest reports state that this is because BES cannot manage two BB devices receiving email from one account… so that needs sorting out. And I for one, am sure it will be because it has been demonstrated already.

    Most apps exist because the web experience is poor (and particularly on Apple products…)

    So who needs native email when the BB Playbook browser is so good?

    Gmail, hotmail, aolmail, yahoo mail, all look amazing on the Playbook and are excellent over wifi or a steady 3G connection. In fact, they are better than the email app Apple has on it’s ipad1 and ipad2.


    The portability, the hardware build quality (only matched by apple), the OS (twice as good as Apple’s), Flash, not having to use itunes all the time (although itunes IS good for downloading podcasts and films – which can be synchronised with the Playbook) and Android apps to come next – all make it a better tablet for me.

  • Matt W

    It seems more like you’re the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Why not back up your your unfounded accusations?

  • Ryles Malone

    This is probably why they seem to be migrating their system to a BBID with an email and password, to accommodate one user for multiple devices instead of one pin = one person.  Their first customer are the millions of people who’ve invested in their platform for security purposes.  It was also licensed per seat or “PIN” in this case, so that is also probably causing a major overhaul, without abandoning the billions of dollars government and corporations have invested in the platform.

    Considering their first customer is the BES invested corporation who established BB as the most secure mobile platform, which it still is.  They argued that (initially) everyone that wants a Playbook has a Blackberry and on BES or BIS.  The special secure Bluetooth Bridge connection is rather brilliant from an IT management perspective considering Government and Military contracts to make sure things are lock-down secure.  It seems losing one device is not as complicated to solve as losing one of two devices.

    Secondly, OWA or any email or web based email is fully supported by their flash enabled browser.  The argument is that you don’t need an app for the web.  If you don’t get the full web, well then you need a bunch of apps.

    The upcoming Blackberry Balance offering also adds another level of complexity that I am curious to see how it will play out.  Having one device house both work and personal functionality.  This is basically a safeguard that you could use your government issued phone and be in no danger of accidently copy and pasting sensitive information from the work profile of the device.  Also nothing like mistakenly attaching the picture of your bachelor party to the sales forecast meeting you’re supposed to present to an investor.  Basically the entire reason why IT tends to fear other platforms, the potential for security breach is enormous.

    Blackberry is however in trouble.  Mostly because of it’s application developer base and application development process.  Functionally, it can do as much or more than any other platform, but it’s just not consumer first focused.  If Apple or Google or HP ever produce some sort of encrypted system equivalent or better than the BB platform, then they will have a bigger problem even.  But by then, RIM will have a chance to bring more competitive products to market and hopefully do something to attract developers.  Mind you, BB has many of the relevant apps for the major programs one needs, they just lack a lot of the apps that kill time or that make things prettier.

    Btw, tethering is for the data plan and also done wirelessly to the phone.  So you don’t need to pay for another device plan.  And as I perceive it, there is no way the carrier would know what device their data was being used on as it is all brought down through the phone.

    The issue isn’t stupid or unbelievable.. it’s just complicated.

    Objective mobile platform guy.

  • KianKok

    It’s kinda funny comment. :P