Early reviews of the PlayBook have been unfavorable, but optimistic, mostly concluding that the tablet was launched half-baked, lacking some basic and promised functions like a native email client and Android app support. RIM’s executives have gone on the defensive, but their statements, reported by Bloomberg, aren’t really convincing.
Mike Lazaridis described the form factor and technology as “superior,” and industrial design VP Todd Wood said the design was “iconic,” hearkening back to items like Picasso and Hemingway’s notebooks. Of course, those notebooks had completely different purposes and usage methods, and, for the record, folded up when you were done. And despite the fact that the PlayBook is arguably technically superior to many tablets out there, it’s not superior in many ways the average consumer is likely to notice — yet. Instead, consumers will notice that they have to use the browser to access their email or that the selection of apps isn’t as great as they’d like (though 3000 is nothing to sneeze at, if they’re good).
Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said of the allegations that the device is missing key features: “I don’t think that’s fair. A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry.” If that were true, don’t you think devices like the Folio and Redfly would have taken off? Furthermore, if RIM expects to sell iPad numbers of these devices, they can’t hamstring their ambitions by positioning it as a glorified BlackBerry accessory. The proportion of business to party in the PlayBook has never been clear, and the launch hasn’t helped.
After reading the reviews around the net, I’m pretty convinced that the consistent message is no conspiracy and no accident. RIM felt they needed to put this device on the market, and they put it out leagues short of feature parity with the competition. Any launch will have its faults, and features will be filled in over time, but RIM may not be able to recover in the consumer space if the PlayBook doesn’t come into its own within a couple months.
Does it still have legs in enterprise? Trends are still too preliminary to really say too much on that front. Many businesses have integrated iPads, but that could easily be because the competition in the first year was so negligible. Some say tablets themselves won’t ever trickle up. One thing is for sure: BlackBerry is still a big brand in business, though for advantages that are easy enough for Apple and Google to approach. While RIM is busy keeping the lawn in order by appearing to be competitive in the tablet space, one of their competitors might just sneak in the back door and steal their lunch.