Mark Bridge writes:
The RIM BlackBerry PlayBook. Embarrassment-in-waiting or soon-to-be-success in the increasingly crowded tablet market?
Just before Christmas I stuck my neck out and predicted the latter. But that’s not a position I’ve always held.
When the device was first announced I aligned myself with the cynics when it came to the tablet’s name. The US definition of ‘playbook’ as something akin to the more-familiar ‘game plan’ gets lost in translation. In fact, I’d say it detracts from the business nature of the device.
And there’s plenty more that could go wrong. Battery life will be critical. Then there’s availability of the PlayBook versus the forthcoming iPad 2. The new Android Honeycomb tablet-focussed operating system. A possible lack of applications. Pricing, too.
However, I’ve been won over. The clincher was an overheard conversation with IT support staff looking forward to the device’s arrival. This is, after all, a tablet that promises to be more than merely business-friendly. More than enterprise-friendly. It’s IT department friendly.
Positioning the RIM PlayBook as part BlackBerry accessory, part tablet computer, separates it nicely from the iPad and Galaxy Tab (and indeed the Tab 2 and iPad 2). The potential lack of native email and calendar apps – instead it’ll wirelessly connect to the information on your BlackBerry – isn’t a problem for corporate users. In fact, there’ll be a sigh of relief from IT staff. Anyway, with research suggesting that 90% of iPad buyers already own another Apple product, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find the same thing happening with BlackBerry users.
As well as all this, there’s the impressive technical stuff. An attractive new OS. A powerful processor. Multitasking. A touch-sensitive bezel around a 7-inch screen that’ll all (just about) squeeze into a suit pocket.
Of course, as I said earlier, there’s plenty that could go wrong. But there’s also plenty that could go right.
And that’s why – despite some wavering – I’m sticking with my prediction. The iPad, like the iPhone, may take the glory. But there’s more to RIM’s business than just equipment sales… and I think the PlayBook could prove itself to be a well-crafted customer retention tool.