How the BlackBerry Playbook Works

The BlackBerry PlayBook OS

Rather than port the BlackBerry smartphone OS to the PlayBook, RIM decided to depend upon QNX Software Systems. Research in Motion purchased QNX in 2010, making it a subsidiary company. QNX specializes in building operating systems and middleware for devices. This is the level of programming that allows software to access hardware resources. Without this level of software, apps and programs wouldn't run on devices unless they were hardcoded into the device's circuitry.

The QNX operating system provides a platform for multitasking. Running multiple programs on the PlayBook is easy. Switching between programs is simple as well -- programs appear as cards on the screen. Sliding your finger left or right lets you thumb through active applications. If you want to shut down an application, you can swipe your finger quickly to the bottom of the screen.

The card view and swipe features prompted journalists like Engadget's Vlad Savov to say that QNX copied Hewlett Packard's TouchPad tablet. The TouchPad runs on webOS, an operating system that Palm developed before HP acquired the company. It too uses a card view and swipe interface. RIM executive Jeff McDowell dismissed the criticisms, pointing out that when multiple teams are working on interfaces for a touch-screen device some overlap is to be expected [source: Savov].

To connect the PlayBook to a BlackBerry smartphone, you have to activate an app called BlackBerry Bridge. This creates a secure Bluetooth connection between the PlayBook and the phone. When you initiate the Bridge app, the PlayBook displays a quick response (QR) code on the screen. Scanning this code with a BlackBerry smartphone will prompt the phone to make an encrypted Bluetooth connection with the PlayBook. You can also set up this connection manually -- the PlayBook will display a PIN that you'll need to type into the BlackBerry smartphone.

Once connected to your BlackBerry smartphone, your PlayBook will allow you to check e-mail, calendar appointments and other files through your phone. If the connection between your BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook should break, these applications will become unavailable automatically.