Research in Motion (RIM) has unveiled the next iteration of its BlackBerry PlayBook operating system which gives the tablet PC the ability to receive email without needing to be connected to a BlackBerry smartphone.

The latest version of the PlayBook OS, which is based the QNX operating system RIM acquired in 2010, was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show, which is taking place in Las Vegas this week. The software features a unified inbox, which RIM says will combine emails with messages from social media sites including Twitter and Facebook all in one place.

Users will also benefit from multi-tasking in email, which means using tabs it is possible to refer to an email while composing another, as well as the ability to compose and edit rich-text email including full-support for fonts and formatting. Furthermore, a search function means multiple email accounts can be searched for by keywords, subjects or senders.

The new BlackBerry Bridge feature allows a BlackBerry smartphone to be used as a keyboard and mouse for the BlackBerry Playbook tablet PC, which RIM says is ideal when the PlayBook is connected to a HDMI display. The function also means documents, emails, multimedia files and web pages stored on a BlackBerry smartphone can be opened on a PlayBook.

Documents to Go, which ensures PlayBook users can create, edit and view documents has been updated and a Print to Go app that gives tablet PC owners the ability to print wirelessly from their device has also been added to the new version of the OS.

"BlackBerry PlayBook is already recognised for delivering powerful performance, true multi-tasking, advanced web browsing and HD multimedia in an ultra-portable design," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at RIM.

"With BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 we are building on this strong foundation, as well as leveraging our strengths in communications, social integration and productivity, to allow people to use their BlackBerry PlayBook in new ways throughout the day."

RIM said the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 software will be made available as a free update in February this year.

RIM also unveiled the BlackBerry 7.1 OS for its smartphones, which includes BlackBerry Tag - a feature that allows handsets with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to tap their devices together to share information and content, as well as the ability to turn a BlackBerry smartphone into a mobile hotspot.