Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet faces an uphill battle against the Apple iPad and competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, RIM's tablet could have an advantage in a business context.
Can Research In Motion's PlayBook take market share away from the Apple iPad?
At first glance, that appears to be a question designed expressly
to bait hardcore Apple fans. Indeed, the media seems duty-bound to
upcoming tablet device for its viability as an "iPad Killer," whether
the competitors' specs are even vaguely comparable. But the question
whether RIM's tablet can make a dent in Apple's dominance also reflects
nature of this growing market segment and how it could change in coming
Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the PlayBook includes a 7-inch
multitouch capacitive screen. That makes it lightweight, capable of being held
in one hand, and small enough to fit in many bags' pockets. PlayBook's 1GHz
dual-core processor and 1GB RAM gives it comparable power to other tablets
either currently on the market or slated to appear in the near future.
PlayBook's features also seem in line with other upcoming tablet competitors
Its browser will reportedly support Adobe Flash and HTML5, multitasking and
high-definition video. The 3-megapixel camera embedded in the front of the
device, paired with the 5-megapixel one in the back, can be used for video
conferencing. Although RIM poured considerable resources into its new
BlackBerry 6 OS for smartphones, it decided to create yet another operating
system for the PlayBook, based on "powerful, user-friendly QNX technology."
acquired QNX Software Systems from Harman International in April
. QNX's open-platform
operating system, Neutrino, previously found its way into business sectors such
as automotive, aerospace, defense and medical; at the time of the acquisition,
it was widely believed that RIM would leverage the software to integrate its
smartphones with in-vehicle audio and infotainment systems. But RIM's QNX plans
were obviously more ambitious in scope.
For enterprise customers already bound to the BlackBerry
ecosystem, the PlayBook has much to recommend it. In addition to 3G
connectivity via an existing BlackBerry service plan, the tablet also boasts
out-of-the-box compatibility with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The device's
ability to sync information with the user's BlackBerry transforms it, at least
into theory, into a lighter, slimmer laptop replacement for road warriors.
Other details remain scarce, chief among them the PlayBook's
firm release date and price point. The latter will factor greatly in the
device's eventual fortunes; pricing it beneath the iPad and other competitors
could give RIM a marketplace boost, particularly among businesses still
pinching their IT pennies in the wake of the global recession. Priced at a
premium, though, could lead consumers and businesses to dismiss it in favor of
Mobile applications are another concern for RIM. At recent
company events, executives have emphasized BlackBerry's supposedly
developer-friendly environment. That will attract developers to build apps and
games for the platform; but given Apple's substantial lead in that category,
not to mention other competitors' reliance on the rapidly expanding Android
Marketplace, RIM could face a steeply uphill battle in creating a viable app
But the even more fundamental question is whether RIM's
strategy-marketing a tablet more toward business users-will allow it to
succeed in a market that threatens to crash and burn at least a few
manufacturers. Certainly the consumer side of that market will become
increasingly crowded in coming quarters; in addition to the Samsung Galaxy S
and Dell Streak, Hewlett-Packard is reportedly planning its own tablets running
both the Palm webOS and Windows 7.
While the consumer market is crowding up, though, a
dedicated enterprise market for tablets-aside from the ones already in use by
very specific segments such as engineering-remains relatively untapped.
Enterprise IT administrators have already begun evaluating the iPad for use in
their shops, particularly from a security perspective. But the PlayBook already
features baked-in corporate data access and security, potentially giving it a
huge advantage in this area.
What's more, the BlackBerry brand still holds substantial
sway among enterprise customers, despite the inroads made by Google Android and
the iPhone over the past several quarters. That, too, could give RIM an
advantage as it aggressively markets the PlayBook to its traditional base.
So, can RIM's PlayBook take
market share away from the Apple iPad? Maybe not in the
consumer market, with other competitors rapidly entering the scene. In the
context of the enterprise, however, the PlayBook's chances are potentially much