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BlackBerry PlayBook: no native email, calendar and contact apps at launch

BlackBerry maker RIM says tabletised email, calendar and contact applications will be coming to its PlayBook, but in future software updates rather than when it goes on sale in April.

Planning to use the new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet without pairing it with a BlackBerry smart phone? RIM, its maker, has some bad news: there will be no native email, calendar and contact apps for its tablet when it goes on sale in the US in April.

Wait, what? So how will PlayBook users access these features? Well, they'll have to use the tablet's BlackBerry Bridge feature to access them on a paired BlackBerry smart phone. We suspect the majority of early adopters of RIM's tablet will be planning to do just that, so it's not a major scandal.

RIM says it does have plans to introduce native apps for these key functions in the future though. "In a future software update for the BlackBerry PlayBook, we will also provide native email, calendar and contact apps for those customers who prefer to have these apps directly on the tablet," says the company in a FAQ spotted by CrackBerry.

No firm date has been put on this software update, although you can assume it will come before RIM launches the 4G versions of the PlayBook, which will come with mobile broadband built in later this summer.

When RIM first announced the PlayBook last year, pairing it with a BlackBerry handset was part of the package. The move was criticised at the time, and in recent months, RIM has moved away from that assumption: a 4G PlayBook with its own email, calendar and contacts apps will be much more of a standalone device.

This plays into the debate over the role of tablets, though. One of the strange things about Apple CEO Steve Jobs' "post-PC" rhetoric at the recent iPad 2 launch was the fact you still need to connect your iPad to a computer when activating it or getting software updates.

As time goes on, we hope tablets will become genuinely standalone devices, which don't need to be paired with a phone or connected to a PC to do anything.