When Research In Motion first announced the BlackBerry PlayBook, some were skeptical about its appeal. After all, the tablet boasts a 7-inch display-smaller than the iPad's 9.7-inch screen-and it lacks the ability to connect to 3G. The only option available to users away from a Wi-Fi connection is to tether the device with a BlackBerry smartphone. For a device designed with enterprise customers in mind, it didn't sound all that promising.
But little did critics know at the time that RIM had a trump card up its sleeve. The company has announced a new version of the BlackBerry PlayBook,called the BlackBerry 4G PlayBook, which will feature both Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity. It will be made available exclusively on Sprint's network.
Adding 4G to a version of the BlackBerry PlayBook was a smart move on RIM's part. And although the fate of its BlackBerry PlayBook is still in doubt, it seems quite likely that the BlackBerry 4G PlayBook will be a success.
1. The 4G
It's important to not discount the importance of 4G. As appealing as 3G might be for enterprise tablet users, 4G offers more opportunity. Not only is it faster, but it should help improve employee productivity. Plus, 2011 will likely be the year that most major carriers invest heavily in 4G technology. RIM is positioning itself to capitalize on that trend with the BlackBerry 4G PlayBook.
2. It's about differentiation
RIM's decision to bring 4G to its tablet and forgo the addition of 3G might be controversial, given the greater availability of 3G in the U.S. But critics should understand that RIM'sdecision to deliver 4G in the tablet was based in its desire to be different. Simply offering 3G connectivity in its tablet would have meant its product would be like all the others. And in a market where one product-Apple's iPad-sets the standard, being a little different is probably a smart move.
3. It complements Wi-Fi-only versions
Would it have been better if RIM offered 3G and Wi-Fi in the standard BlackBerry PlayBook model? Sure. But by offering a 4G model, the company is at least complementing those other options. Perhaps most important, it's giving customers a choice, as does Apple, of either opting for a Wi-Fi-only version (and likely save some money) or go with the 4G model for more connectivity options. It makes sense. RIM's following Apple's lead-and given iPad sales figures, that's probably a smart move.
4. RIM's opting for new software
The BlackBerry 4G PlayBook would be a downright loser if RIM decided to make its BlackBerry operating system standard on the tablet. The mobile OS is suitable for some enterprise customers, but on a larger form factor with more usability, it doesn't work. That's precisely why its decision to offer up a new BlackBerry Tablet OS makes so much sense. At least when it comes to corporate customers, the tablet version should improve productivity, while still delivering a BlackBerry feel.