RIM Unveils Facebook App For PlayBook

by Mark Walsh

The BlackBerry PlayBook may have drawn unfavorable comparisons to the iPad when launched last month, but it has something the Apple tablet doesn’t: a Facebook application. Optimized for the PlayBook’s 7-inch screen and touch functionality, the Facebook for PlayBook app is set to debut in Research in Motion’s BlackBerry App World later this month.
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With 30 million people already using the Facebook app for BlackBerry smartphones, the new version for RIM’s tablet has a large built-in audience among the company’s customers. It also gives RIM something of an advantage in the apps department, even though the PlayBook offers only a relative handful of titles compared to the 80,000 apps available for the iPad.
The new PlayBook Facebook app lets users find friends by scanning a grid of their profile pictures, interact with wall posts, look at information on profiles and company pages and comment on and “like” photos within. Other key features include the ability to upload photos, watch video, use Facebook chat, and post status updates and read others’ updates in the news feed.
Amid several other announcements Monday, RIM also unveiled a new video chat application for the PlayBook that lets Wi-Fi users make video calls with one click from their contact lists within the app. The PlayBook, which starts at $500, sold an estimated 50,000 units its first day on sale, April 19, after receiving mixed reviews from tech experts. RBC Capital Markets forecasts RIM will sell 500,000 PlayBooks in the company’s first quarter ending May 28 and 4 million in 2011.
RIM last week warned Wall Street that its first-quarter earnings would fall short of its financial guidance because of weaker-than-expected sales of its flagship BlackBerry smartphone line. The shift toward companies allowing personal smartphones for work has loosened RIM’s grip on the corporate market — and it opened the door to the iPhone and Android devices as alternatives to the BlackBerry.
To help blunt inroads made by competitors, the company also rolled out new software called BlackBerry Balance, allowing users to combine work and personal data on a single BlackBerry phone, “while keeping the content separate and secure.”  In practice, that means business-related information can be copied to or used by personal apps like Facebook, Twitter or Gmail. And if the device is lost or stolen, a company can wipe all the data from the phone to ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
One question raised by the PlayBook news today is whether Facebook will soon launch an iPad app. The Facebook app for the iPhone is the most downloaded app ever in the App Store and several unauthorized versions for the Apple tablet are benefiting from the absence of an official Facebook app.
In a post on the topic last week, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler pointed out the Facebook Web site works fairly well on the iPad, but lacks key features, such as the ability to upload media and use Single Sign On for logging into Facebook mobile applications.
“There’s definitely a need on the Playbook for optimized apps of any kind right now,” noted Avi Greengart of technology research firm Current Analysis. “There just aren’t that many, and what’s available isn’t very good.”

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