RIM's BlackBerry-themed PlayBook could gain an advantage in the tablet market if it makes some changes.
Motion's PlayBook tablet hit store shelves April 19, failing to attract around-the-block
lines but, at least according to one analyst, managing to sell a respectable
45,000 units on its first day of release.
Co. analyst Peter Misek suggested in an April 20 research note that, based on
sell-through surveys taken at Best Buy and Staples, RIM had managed to sell
20,000 PlayBooks. Combined with 25,000 preorders, Misek placed the PlayBook's
April 19 total at 45,000 units.
PlayBook sales are far exceeding MMI's [Motorola Mobility's] Xoom sales," he
RIM is betting
that the PlayBook's BlackBerry branding, combined with a unique QNX operating
system and some powerful hardware, will offer it a competitive edge in the
increasingly crowded tablet arena. However, the PlayBook faces headwinds in the
form of tepid reviews and an absence of key features, such as a built-in 3G
connection and a native email application. With the BlackBerry Bridge tethering
feature, the PlayBook can display a nearby BlackBerry's emails, calendar and
other vital information-but that, of course, requires an actual BlackBerry.
RIM is pricing
the PlayBook models at $499 for the 16GB, $599 for the 32GB and $699 for the
64GB edition. That places the device roughly in the middle range of current
tablet pricing, and toe-to-toe with Apple's iPad 2, whose 16GB version retails
for $499, 32GB for $599 and 64GB for $699.
an April 11 report from research firm Gartner, Apple's iOS will continue to
dominate the media-tablet market through 2015, with a 47.1 percent share.
Android will be close behind with 38.6 percent, followed by RIM with 10
percent, HP's webOS with 3 percent and MeeGo with 1 percent.
words, RIM likely has a long, hard fight in front of it. Here are some things
that could help it succeed.
Embrace Android Apps
Early reviews noted
the sparseness of RIM's App World offerings. If applications and games are a
prime driver for device adoption, then the company could face a serious
issue-one compounded by the time it takes to build up a suitable application
"It will take
time and significant effort for RIM to attract developers and deliver a
compelling ecosystem of applications and services around QNX to position it as
a viable alternative to Apple or Android," Carolina Milanesi, research vice
president at Gartner, wrote in the April 11 report predicting tablet market share
In light of
that, RIM might consider embracing Android applications posthaste. That could
alienate its homegrown developer community, but it would ensure the PlayBook
has enough applications and games available to play ball with its rivals.
Embrace Microsoft's Cloud
RIM is already
planning to partner with Microsoft on the latter's cloud offerings, which will
be integrated into the PlayBook and other devices. That includes RIM providing
cloud-based BlackBerry service in support of Office 365, which offers the
latest versions of Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and
Lync Online. RIM's BlackBerry Servers will reportedly connect "cloud to cloud"
with Microsoft's data centers to host Office 365 data on users' BlackBerries.
will have the ability to port and display Office 365 data from any user's
BlackBerry, via BlackBerry Bridge. This helps keep corporate data secure, since
any data delivered to the tablet via the Bridge then "disappears" when the
BlackBerry is removed from range. (Users can also set expiration dates for the
PlayBook's cached data and enforce more stringent password policies.)
BlackBerry has traditionally served as the enterprise's smartphone of choice,
it's been losing ground to the likes of the iPhone and Google Android devices.
Tight integration with a muscular suite of productivity applications like
Office 365 (or Google Apps, for that matter) would give the PlayBook a feature
totally unique to tablets currently on the market, and broaden its appeal to
businesses-even if those businesses choose to embrace mobility platforms other
Faster Software Updates
promised PlayBook updates such as a native email application. It needs to
deliver those quickly, along with fixes for a few user-interface bugs. One of
the early criticisms leveled against the tablet is that it feels incomplete-which should pressure
RIM to deliver those upgrades sooner rather than later.
Integrated 3G Connection
is a WiFi-only device, dependent on a BlackBerry or another smartphone for tethering
when outside a hotspot. That puts it at a disadvantage against other tablets on
the market, which generally come with a 3G option. Issuing a future edition of
the PlayBook with a 3G connection-and a great data plan-could blunt this
Drop the Price
At the moment,
the competitors in the tablet space all seem determined to match the iPad on
price. But given iPad's first-mover advantage, highly-reviewed hardware and
massive application ecosystem, matching the price eliminates the one way these
rival tablets could gain an advantage over Apple: dropping their price point
through the proverbial floor. A 16GB PlayBook priced at $499 might not draw
block-long lines, but one at $299 would definitely prod consumers and
businesses into taking a second look.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.