RIM Playbook, BlackBerry Could Use Better Spokesmen than Lazardis, Balsillie

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-04-16 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Research In Motion and the BlackBerry Playbook still have a lot going for them if the company successfully addresses legitimate criticism of the new tablet. However, co-CEOS Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsillie have done nothing to help their cause by the way they responded to media questions.

Things have been tough recently at the Waterloo, Ontario, headquarters of Research In Motion. At the start of the week of April 10, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazardis got into a tiff with a reporter from the BBC, and eventually walked out of an interview complaining that the reporter's questions were unfair. Later that week, RIM's other co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, complained that negative reviews of the new RIM BlackBerry Playbook were unfair. I suppose that means that there's plenty of unfairness to go around. 

In defense of Lazardis, the questions asked by the BBC reporter were at the very least pretty dumb questions. There the reporter equated the BlackBerry's virtually uncrackable encryption as a "security issue." I hate to break this to the Beeb, but really good encryption is a very good thing. It's something that other smartphones don't really have and they really need. The fact that some governments don't like not being able to spy on their citizens might be a political problem, but it's not a security issue. 

Now, at the end of the week, it seems that RIM is catching grief for the software-or lack thereof-on the new PlayBook. Basically, the device doesn't have its own email, contacts, calendar or other basic BlackBerry capabilities. The idea with the PlayBook is that you're supposed to link the device with your BlackBerry smartphone and the two devices will do some sort of mind meld, and shazam, the tablet will have mail, contacts and calendar courtesy of the smartphone. 

I suppose that this originally seemed like a good idea. If enough people like the PlayBook, it'll give them the incentive they need to also get a BlackBerry. Maybe if the device had been released a year ago, this might have worked. But that was then and this is now. In that intervening year, everything changed. In other words, the iPad was launched and with it a set a de facto standards for how a tablet should work and what features it should have. 

The PlayBook doesn't fit that standard, and as a result it's getting some criticism. The big items are the lack of email, contacts, calendar, etc., that the smartphone has. Co-CEO Balsillie has said that criticism of that deficiency is unfair. But in fact it's not. If you plan to use a PlayBook to its full capability, you have to have both the BlackBerry smartphone and the PlayBook. This in turn means you need to drop a lot of dollars on the deal. 

Sure, you can probably get the smartphone for a hundred dollars or so and, realistically, it's not going to cost you any more to use a BlackBerry than it does other smartphones. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's 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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