On Monday of last week, RIM unveiled the Blackberry Playbook. The device is most likely going to be marketted as a direct competitor to Apple's iPad, but while the device looks like it will be interesting, I am not sure if it will make the splash that RIM is going to need to be successful in the tablet market. The Blackberry has long been the staple of any true business man. Its email functionality is unmatched, the blinking light makes sure you never miss a call, and BBM is a great way to stay in contact with colleagues and friends. Lately however, Blackberries mind share has been dwindling among folks who believe that the OS is outdated and is no longer as smooth and easy to use as it's competitors. This is why the Blackberry introduced the new Playbook, a way to get back into the game with a fresh face, and better yet, a fresh start.
An exciting part about the Playbook, is that it isn't just the Blackberry OS with more stuff added on, it's a whole new OS based off of the QNX company's work, which RIM acquired. This means that it won't just be bloated with legacy data and issues, it gives Blackberry a fresh new start. Some of the top level execs also made the point that the OS will eventually make it's way to the Smartphone itself. While this is a great improvement, I don't know if it will be enough for the Playbook to reach critical mass.
Dependent on Blackberry:
One of the biggest mistakes I think RIM made with the Playbook right out of the gate is requiring a user to have a Blackberry in order to get full functionality out of the device. One of the advantages the iPad had is that you didn't need any Apple hardware already to get anything you wanted from the device. This means that you can still use any phone you want, but have the iPad as a supplementary device. Other tablet makers seem to have caught on to this, but we'll have to see how it turns out for the Playbook. Another part about the pairing that I'm not a big fan of is that the only way to get 3G on a Playbook is if you have it paired with your Blackberry, another shot against the device being used as a stand alone tool.
I'm a little bit surprised by this, but it seems as though the standard miniaturization of hardware has come early to the tablet world. I find that my iPad is just the right size to differentiate it from being just a smartphone, and it has enough screen real estate for the purposes I want it for. The trend of iPad competitors seems to be that 7 inches is the way to go for tablets. I've yet to see or use a 7 inch tablet, so I'm not sure how I feel about this size, so I will have to wait before passing judgement on that aspect.
It's Still Vaporware:
One of my biggest pet peeves with tech companies is when they announce a product prematurely. By all accounts, the Playbook doesn't currently exist. All we have at the moment is a list of specs and an estimated release window (early 2011). There were no hands on demo at the event, and no videos showing the device actually working. This makes it much harder for people to get excited about, or even recommend people checking out to build up hype.
After the event, I was fairly underwhelmed by the unveiling of the product. I was quite excited when rumours first began circling about Blackberry building a tablet, but for the moment, I'm not sure that the new play will be enough to bring Blackberry back into the game.