Price, App Selection Key Factors for PlayBook Success

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-09-29 Print this article Print


Notably, the RIM device does not support 3G communications. Instead, the PlayBook is designed to link seamlessly to a BlackBerry using Bluetooth and then use the BlackBerry as its path to 3G and eventually 4G. This allows RIM to escape a host of problems that plague the iPad, which is still stuck with AT&T as its 3G carrier. It also allows the PlayBook to work anywhere there's 3G of any sort, regardless of carrier, as long as the user's BlackBerry can access it. 

At this point, the Bluetooth connection to reach a 3G network seems to be unique to BlackBerrys. The company has not said that it would allow the use of other smartphones for this, although it would seem that portable WiFi hot spots, such as in the Droid X from Verizon Wireless, would also provide a path to 3G. 

From a marketing standpoint, this means that any carrier can sell the PlayBook along with their BlackBerrys, and Verizon Wireless and Sprint can sell it along with their smartphones that provide WiFi links. As is the case with the BlackBerry itself, there's no benefit to RIM to offer the PlayBook exclusively through any carrier. 

But of course, all of this is no guarantee of success. The PlayBook runs QNX, an operating system that's totally unlike the BlackBerry OS, and as a result won't run any of the dozens of applications in the BlackBerry app store. On the other hand, QNX is an open-source operating system, so there's plenty of reason to believe that application development will take place. The real question then becomes, how much and how soon?

One area that's already hurting BlackBerry sales is the skimpy selection of applications available from RIM. This is offset, to some extent, because you don't need to get your apps there; anyone can write an application for a BlackBerry and send it directly. You aren't restricted to what's in the app store as you are with Apple. But it still remains to be seen if there will be a robust applications market for the PlayBook. 

The other major factor is price. If the PlayBook is about the same price as the iPad and the Android tablets, it will probably sell. If it's slightly cheaper, which it should be since it doesn't include a 3G radio, sales will be better. But if RIM prices it too high, the PlayBook will die right there in the BlackBerry store. There's too much competition right now to hit the market with a high-priced option-unless your name is "Apple." And by design, the PlayBook is no Apple device, and that's a good thing, as long as it's not priced as if it were.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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