Research In Motion has released a public beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, with the chief new feature being support for selected Android applications.
As the company revealed at Droidcon last month, the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps - the new package that allows the execution of software designed for Google's mobile OS on RIM's QNX-based tablet platform - comes with a few caveats: support for SIP and SIP VoIP, NDK apps, widgets, and Launcher-based applications won't work.
In addition, anything which ties in to Google Maps, in-app billing services, the text-to-speech engine, or the cloud-to-device messaging system won't work either.
Despite these warnings, PlayBook fans have been experimenting with the BlackBerry Packager for Android. Using this tool, it's possible to convert an APK - the compressed format for Android applications - into something that will run on the new PlayBook OS.
During experiments, users have found that - despite RIM's assertions to the contrary - many Android Launcher apps do work under the compatibility layer, allowing PlayBook owners to replace the standard user interface with something a little more Android-like.
Fans have released a list of pre-converted applications (opens in new tab) available for download now, and it's pretty comprehensive: software such as Amazon's Android, the latest version of note-taking app Evernote, App Store, and even Google's official Maps app have been coverted and proven to work.
Sadly, other apps haven't fared so well: Google Books, Google Docs, and Gmail all fail to operate on the PlayBook using the runtime environment, and several games which rely on the native development kit also refuse to operate.
Nevertheless, it's an impressive showing from RIM - and one which will make the PlayBook a far more tempting device, in addition to recent price drops.
The BlackBerry Packager for Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 can be downloaded by registering here (opens in new tab), if you want to try for yourself.