AT&T Cripples Blackberry Playbook With No Bridge

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Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook tablet got dinged by critics for its reliance on a Blackberry phone for e-mail and calendar support, among other things, but with AT&T, it’s a moot point.

That’s because Blackberry Bridge, an app which connects Blackberry phones to the Playbook tablet, isn’t available to AT&T customers. Crackberry’s Adam Zeis made the discovery when trying to download the Bridge app to his phone.

It’s not clear why AT&T is blocking Blackberry Bridge, but it could be because Bridge allows users to browse the web and check e-mail using their phones’ Internet connections. This reduces the need for a separate tethering plan, which on AT&T costs $20 per month. We’ve seen AT&T take this stance before with the Motorola Atrix 4G phone and laptop dock. Although the dock can’t operate without the phone, AT&T treats it as a separate device, requiring a tethering plan to access AT&T’s network.

In other words, unless this is just a mix-up, AT&T is being lame as usual, in an attempt to protect its tethering business model, which is already silly to begin with because smartphone data plans are limited to 2 GB per month. Why can’t users do whatever they like with that data?

If you’re one of the rare folks who has a Playbook, a Blackberry phone and AT&T, there’s hope. Crackberry has posted a couple links for downloading the Bridge app from outside Blackberry App World. There’s no guarantee that AT&T won’t somehow block Bridge functionality in the future, but at least you can stick it to the man for now.

Update: Engadget got a statement from AT&T. Here it is:

“AT&T is working with RIM to make the BlackBerry Bridge app available for AT&T customers. We have just received the app for testing and before it’s made available to AT&T customers we want to ensure it delivers a quality experience for our customers.”

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