RIM is looking to its PlayBook as a higher-security tablet, and emphasizing its WiFi abilities in addition to BlackBerry tethering.
Motion is positioning its upcoming PlayBook tablet as mostly a WiFi device,
walking a delicate line between touting the device's BlackBerry tethering as a
feature and trying to appeal to those who own other smartphones.
misperception in the role of tethering," Ryan Bidan, a senior product manager
at RIM, explained during a Jan. 14 meeting with eWEEK. "The PlayBook is a
standalone WiFi tablet first." One that just happens to boast 3G tethering via
a user's nearby BlackBerry.
RIM refers to
that tethering feature as "BlackBerry Bridge," and in theory, it will provide
additional layers of security for tablet users. For example, removing one's
BlackBerry from tethering range will "disappear" the PlayBook applications
related to messaging and other security-sensitive features. Users can also set
expiration dates for the PlayBook's cached data, as well as more stringent
password policies. Tethering also allows the BlackBerry's encryption key to
reside solely on the smartphone.
security-minded professionals, that could well ease fears about bringing
tablets into the enterprise. However, RIM faces substantial competition in the
segment from the likes of Apple's iOS and Google Android, which are also being
pressured to boost the security of their own offerings.
RIM is also
focused on what it calls "enhanced apps," which incorporate BlackBerry APIs,
and in theory allow the programs to take advantage of features such as
BlackBerry Messaging. The ability to build BlackBerry applications using Flash,
RIM's executives argue, also gives the platform more versatility than Apple's
iPad, which currently dominates the tablet market.
proliferation of devices capable of creating mobile WiFi spots, including the
"personal hotspot" feature on the new Verizon iPhone 4, could also help RIM's
PlayBook prospects. In a statement released during this month's Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sprint said that the BlackBerry 4G PlayBook would be the first PlayBook model
to include wide-area wireless connectivity
. Nonetheless, the
PlayBook faces a number of devices, including the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy
Tab, whose built-in 3G functionality could be seen as a value proposition.
relies on a proprietary operating system based on software acquired during
RIM's takeover of QNX Software Systems from Harman International in April 2010.
It emphasizes multitasking, with the ability to swipe your finger along the
sides of the screen to cycle through applications; "flicking" one of those
applications' thumbnail images will close it down. RIM is currently tweaking the software for better battery
, with executives claiming the device will provide "a full day's
work" on a single charge.
competition offered by the burgeoning tablet market, RIM remains bullish on the
PlayBook's prospects. "I think the PlayBook clearly sets the bar way higher on
performance, and you're going to see more," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, told
analysts and media during the company's Dec. 16 earnings call. "I think with
the PlayBook ... we're going to set the new standard on performance and tools,
very powerful tools. And we're growing really fast."