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RIM's Lazaridis shows off PlayBook upgrades, partners at BlackBerry World

Research In. Motion Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, addresses the audience during the Blackberry World conference in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

Roberto Gonzalez/AP

Chris Umiastowski spent more than a decade working as a technology analyst on Bay Street. He now works as an independent analyst and strategy consultant. He is blogging from BlackBerry World for The Globe and Mail.

I've just finished watching the first 3D keynote presentation of my life, and it was delivered by Mike Lazaridis as part of the general session here at BlackBerry World.

When the staff opened the doors to a massive room to accommodate the 6,000 attendees here in Orlando, many of us were surprised to see a pair of 3D glasses on every chair. Quite a "consumerish" move for a company with deep roots in enterprise. If only RIM could captivate the interest of investors as well as they captivated the interest of this audience. We'd be looking at a different stock price.

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Lazaridis did a great job here - much better than his presentation to investors and analysts yesterday. He revealed that at the time of the Playbook launch, App World had more than 3,000 tablet-optimized apps available for download, which is more than any other competing platform had at the time of their tablet launch (hello iPad).

The crowd cheered when RIM revealed that Angry Birds is coming to the Playbook. We also saw several great gaming demonstrations to prove the power of the QNX operating system driving the Playbook. We also saw a spectacular demonstration of Samurai 2, a sword fighting game.

Lazaridis also welcomed to stage the CEOs of Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe's Creative Suite will now support Playbook right out of the box, meaning developers who use this suite can output in a Playbook-compatible format directly, speeding up time to market. Adobe also played a big role in the creation of RIM's new Facebook for Playbook app, which is the first tablet-optimized Facebook app on the market for any tablet platform.

Steve Ballmer joined Lazaridis to talk about Bing on BlackBerry. I didn't find this particularly exciting but it is nice to see that web search and mapping capabilities will be baked right into the BlackBerry OS. It will certainly make these tasks easier and faster.

Android support on Playbook is real too. We saw a live demo of exactly how the Playbook will handle Android apps. In a word: seamless. Users will download Android apps directly from BlackBerry App World, and launch them just like they would launch any other app. Simply put, this will give the Playbook thousands of more apps and it gives Android developers an easy path to additional income opportunities. I, along with many others, are still wondering if this may backfire and persuade some developers to code for Android rather than write native code for Playbook. That's something I'm digging into while at this show.

Finally - RIM showed off some Playbook functionality that the market has been whining about ever since the April 19th launch. Yes, you guessed it - e-mail. RIM showed off a very slick e-mail client. In the past I've related the lack of e-mail on Playbook to being like wet paint on a new car. Go away for a while and when you come back the paint will be dry. Well - the paint looks like it's drying nicely.

What was missing? I think RIM needs a compelling video strategy for Playbook. That means two things to me: 1) a Netflix and Hulu app; and 2) a store where I can rent or buy movies and watch them offline. The iPad has both. This is, to me, the most glaring gap. But hopefully it will prove to be another "wet paint" problem.

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If there is any one conclusion to take away from this presentation, it's that RIM is dead serious about becoming a major player in mobile computing. And while they may have a messaging problem with the investment community, they don't seem to have a strategy, hardware or platform problem.

The author owns shares in RIM, Apple and Google.

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About the Author

Chris Umiastowski, P. Eng., MBA, has over a decade of professional experience analyzing technology stocks as a former top ranked equity analyst on Bay Street. Prior to that, he worked as an engineer in the telecom industry. His deep technology and analytical experience help him identify investment opportunities that come from sweeping change in tech-centric industries. More

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