RIM PlayBook: The tablet business is waiting for

RIM's PlayBook tablet combines features that leapfrog competing tablets to deliver a tablet ready for business.

As expected, RIM unveiled it's upcoming tablet device at the BlackBerry Developer Conference taking place this week in San Francisco. The tablet--dubbed the PlayBook as opposed to the rumored 'BlackPad'--won't be available until early 2011, but has features and capabilities that set the bar for tablets and may be worth waiting for.

RIM's PlayBook tablet is not merely a "me-too" copycat of the Apple iPad, nor does it simply add a camera and SD memory card slot to follow suit with other iPad competitors. RIM has combined an impressive hardware platform with features and functions that leapfrog tablet competitors and set the bar for Apple and others to strive for.

The PlayBook has a 7-inch display--apparently the de facto standard for tablets now--and weighs in under a pound. It has 1Gb of RAM--double the memory in the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and four times the memory of the Apple iPad. It has a dual-core processor, effectively doubling the computing capacity of competing tablets. It has dual HD cameras, HD video recording capability, and HDMI output.

Those features are nice, but what really sets the PlayBook apart is the software. With support for MP3, AAC, and WMA, the PlayBook is capable of handling even Apple and Microsoft proprietary audio formats. Its support of Adobe Flash Player, and HTML5 ensures that it is compatible with virtually any interactive Web site or online video content.

The ability of the PlayBook to connect with BlackBerry smartphones is a unique feature that BlackBerry users will appreciate. Amazon has already given its blessing of the PlayBook by announcing that it will develop a Kindle app for the RIM tablet.

Al Hilwa, Program Director of Applications Development Software for IDC, commented on the PlayBook announcement. "The PlayBook leverages the Adobe Flash ecosystem for an instant portfolio of rich Web sites and applications and makes a credible entry into corporate boardrooms with BlackBerry's formidable enterprise assets," adding, "Perhaps most importantly, [RIM] has put together an application development vision that leverages the energy behind the Web to generate full-featured apps without relying on the intricacies and complexities of its two incompatible operating systems for phones and tablets."

Ultimately, the success or failure of the PlayBook will come down to a couple X-factors that we don't yet have the details on. Pricing is one of the most critical elements. People expect to pay a premium for Apple products, so by definition products from other vendors should cost less. And, that lower price should be the real price--not a lower price contingent on carrier subsidies and requiring the standard two-year contractual obligation.

But, assuming that the PlayBook is reasonably priced, it looks as if RIM has raised the bar for tablets, and put itself in a tremendous position to capitalize on its business credibility and the entrenched BlackBerry culture to capture a good share of the tablet market. Organizations that are considering the Apple iPad as a mobile computing platform--especially organizations that already have a BlackBerry infrastructure--will want to delay that decision and take a closer look at the PlayBook.

Hilwa summed up nicely, stating, "RIM began to get its mojo back."

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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