News Analysis: RIM's new tablet has received a bad rap from industry analysts and media reviewers because it's not an iPad clone. Here's a news flash: It wasn't meant to be an iPad clone.
colleagues in the media have been piling on the BlackBerry PlayBook lately. The
primary shortcoming that's been found by the writers and bloggers involved is
the nearly unpardonable sin of not being an iPad.
failure to pay homage to Vision of Steve Jobs and his belief in what should
constitute a great tablet is striking many tablets. But the PlayBook is getting
worse than most because it's the most unlike an iPad of all the tablets. At
least eWEEK's Nick Kolakowski reviewed
on its own terms, instead of how it wasn't an iPad.
some extent, the Xoom suffered the same fate when Motorola and Verizon
announced it in February. As nice as the Xoom might be and as handy as it'll be
when it gets its 4G hardware, it still suffers the crime of being a non-iPad.
It's really sad, but at least the Xoom has the advantage of its own set of
rabid Android fanatics to hold up its end of the perceived argument. The
PlayBook doesn't have that and worse, RIM has had to deal with a set of unfortunate
by senior executives that serve to make the company look
as if it's out of touch.
before we go any further, I have to admit two things. I own a 16GB WiFi-only
iPad. I don't have a 3G device because there is no 3G where I live or work.
Second, when the PlayBook
I was actually expecting something else, in this case a genuine
that was supposed to arrive in time for Easter from a
smokehouse in Surrey, Va. It turns out that the FedEx delivery got here first,
but the PlayBook comes in a box that clearly can't hold a ham. It also doesn't
look like it tastes as good as a ham, it doesn't have a brown sugar glaze and I
don't have to warm it in the oven at 300 F.
wait. Why is it that I'm comparing the PlayBook against a Virginia ham? Well,
why not? It makes at least as much sense as comparing the PlayBook against an
iPad, except that the iPad doesn't taste as good as the hams that Sam Edwards makes
either. But in fact the iPad was designed to be a lot like the iPod Touch,
except with a screen sufficiently large that it has a lot more utility for
visually oriented tasks.
I bought the iPad for use while I traveled internationally. It worked well in
that role, and since then I've added a complete set of Jeppesen
for use when landing at airports anywhere in the world
(regardless of whether the controller is awake) and I've added a bunch of
weather apps and e-reader apps. I have email available on the iPad, but I never
check email there.
PlayBook is a different story. It comes with Web mail links, and RIM says that
there will be an email client in a few months. But clearly the PlayBook wasn't
designed as an email device. What it's intended to do, as far as I can tell at
this point, is provide a larger, more useful interface for business
applications than you get with the BlackBerry smartphone. While there are a
couple of games installed and there are some generic apps that come with the
PlayBook, the BlackBerry App World shows a significant number of business and
business-related applications already available.
the number of apps isn't up to what Apple has in the iPad version of the Apple
App Store. But the tablet is new, it's not consumer-oriented, and it's also not
an Android device so you can't use existing apps. But what you can do is use
what's available to conduct business. And, of course, there's no independent email
suspicion is that the designers of the PlayBook assumed that users would always
have their BlackBerry smartphone within reach and didn't see the need for an email
app to be a priority. I also suspect as I mentioned in this column last week,
that it's taking RIM longer than expected to get email and messaging that's
secure enough to meet the company standards.
for the same reason that it doesn't make sense to compare the PlayBook against
a Virginia ham, it doesn't make sense to compare it against an iPad. They are
different products intended for different purposes and different users. While I
think it was probably a mistake not to include BlackBerry messaging and email
clients on the PlayBook, if only because there will be times when you turn off your
BlackBerry smartphone, let its battery run down or leave it downstairs, that
was a marketing decision more than anything. I suspect RIM now wishes it had
made some other decision, but that's already behind us.
important now is to evaluate the PlayBook on its own merits as Nick did and
decide whether it's the right tablet for your business. Don't base that
decision on whether or not it's an iPad clone; instead, base it on whether or
not the device does a better job of supporting your needs than another device
might. Just remember, it's not an iPad. Or a Virginia ham.