Finally, RIM Playbook can get email…

Last week U.S. wireless carrier AT&T finally put its stamp of approval on Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Bridge app, which lets BlackBerry smart phone users access their BlackBerry mail, contacts, and calendar.  The BlackBerry PlayBook does not currently support native e-mail or PIM, so BlackBerry users on AT&T have thus far been unable to access their BlackBerry e-mail and PIM via PlayBook. However, email and online calendars are accessible via the PlayBook browser—and crafty users can also download the app “unofficially” from other websites. RIM did promise native PlayBook e-mail and PIM apps, but it already failed to keep its word that the apps would be released within two months after launch.

The BlackBerry PlayBook was initially released in April, and AT&T is the only major U.S. carrier that did not support Bridge at launch.  AT&T said it wanted more time to test the app before approving it, and it looks as though on July 1st they issued its official okay.

AT&T will reportedly allow users to access BlackBerry e-mail and PIM free via PlayBook using a secure Bluetooth connection, but users looking to employ their BlackBerry smartphones’ Internet connections to access the Web via PlayBook will need to shell out $20 a month extra for a tethering plan. The BlackBerry PlayBook is only available in Wi-Fi versions now, so it needs a separate Internet connection for Web access.

PlayBook sales so far have been less than impressive, and AT&T’s hesitancy to support the Bridge app no doubt played some role in this equation. RIM said it sold some 500,000 PlayBooks in the first quarter following its release (not a terribly low number), but it also recently cut sales forecasts for the PlayBook by more than 50% due to an expected decrease in consumer interest around the tablet.

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