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PlayBook won't play nice with BlackBerries on AT&T

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RIM's new tablet the PlayBook won't synchronise with BlackBerrys on AT&T's network - a critical failing for a device which lacks an email client or calendar of its own.

The PlayBook is supposed to spend most of its life synchronised with a nearby BlackBerry, operating as a stateless device for security reasons, but AT&T customers who rushed out to buy one have discovered that the BlackBerry Bridge application (which does the synchronisation) isn't available on their network.

Attempting to download the application on a BlackBerry running on AT&T's network results in an error reading: "This application is not available on your device or for your carrier." This means that AT&T hasn't approved the Bridge application for use.

Some have suggested that this is because AT&T doesn't want PlayBooks tethered to BlackBerrys surfing the internet without paying extra, but the operator told PC World that it "only just" received the app and is still testing with a view to getting it out to customers soon.

RIM is very focused on security, but also sees the PlayBook as a means to sell more BlackBerry handsets and accompanying services, so the tablet is much happier when paired with a suitable handset.

The PlayBook will happily read webmail from any provider, but has no local email or calendar client. For those services the PlayBook runs as a bigger screen to the BlackBerry, with no state data stored locally for security reasons. That makes the device much less useful without the Bridge application.

It is only the download which is blocked, not the installation or execution of the application, so it's possible to work around AT&T's lack of approval; but it shouldn't be necessary.

Regardless of why AT&T customers can't get that Bridge it's embarrassing for RIM, and adds to the feeling that the PlayBook was rushed out without sufficient testing or development. ®

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