Research In Motion continues to position its upcoming PlayBook as more capable than the Apple iPad of providing users with a full Web-browsing experience. A new RIM blog post and video hints at how the BlackBerry maker will eventually market its tablet. The PlayBook will almost certainly be on display during this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, although its actual release date remains unknown.
RIM is depending on the PlayBook to make a splash in the burgeoning tablet market, and perhaps reinvigorate the company's fortunes in the mobile space. Although the company's BlackBerry franchise has long been a stalwart for business users, aggressive smartphone pushes by both Apple and Google have steadily eroded its market-share in the United States over the past few quarters. The PlayBook would not only expand RIM's ecosystem in an entirely new direction, but potentially reinvigorate a brand that, despite robust sales and profits, is perceived by some as increasingly outdated.
"When we posted the BlackBerry PlayBook vs. iPad comparison video, many Inside BlackBerry readers posted comments suggesting a variety of different Websites they'd like to see on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet," reads a Jan. 4 posting on Inside BlackBerry, RIM's official BlackBerry blog. "We took that to heart in our new video."
The clip itself demonstrates the PlayBook's video-playback support for both HTML5 and Adobe Flash, in the context of YouTube and Facebook. The 7-inch PlayBook supports the full desktop versions of those Websites, and the off-screen narrator emphasizes the device's ability to display videos in high fidelity and games without slowdown.
Although RIM has never formally announced a release date for the device, revenues for the PlayBook won't appear on balance sheets until the first quarter of the company's fiscal year 2012, or March 2011. That suggests a launch sometime after February, which it means that RIM will enter a tablet market crowded with Android competitors and perhaps the next-generation iPad.
Despite that competition, RIM remains publicly bullish on their tablet's prospects. "I think the PlayBook clearly sets the bar way higher on performance, and you're going to see more," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, told analysts and media during the company's Dec. 16 earnings call. "I think with the PlayBook ... we're going to set the new standard on performance and tools, very powerful tools. And we're growing very, very fast."
Growing or not, RIM faces its biggest competition in the tablet arena from Apple, whose iPad has sold roughly 1 million units per month since its April 2010 release. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has made no secret of his disdain for Adobe Flash, which remains unsupported by his mobile products; sensing a competitive opening, both RIM and manufacturers such as Samsung have touted their tablets as Flash-supportive and, therefore, capable of displaying more of the Web's rich content.
Aimed at both the enterprise and consumer markets, the PlayBook also features front- and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing, multitasking support, and the ability to sync with users' BlackBerry smartphones. A December survey by research firm ChangeWave suggested that 14 percent of corporations are anticipating a tablet purchase in the first quarter of 2011, with 9 percent of those considering the RIM PlayBook. That was good enough to tie RIM with Dell, with both companies lagging behind the iPad.
As succeeding generations of rival tablets integrate new hardware and software features, though, it remains to be seen whether the PlayBook-seamless video playback or no-can make a definitive market statement.