INSIDE MOBILE: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: The Secret's in the Sauce

 
 
By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-10-27
 
 
 

INSIDE MOBILE: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: The Secret's in the Sauce


RIM has announced the BlackBerry PlayBook, their new tablet device. But the most important part of the announcement is the BlackBerry tablet's operating system, built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. Thus, the secret of this new tablet is in the sauce powering PlayBook rather than in the hardware. Here's why.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has a 7-inch capacitive touch-screen (same as Samsung's Galaxy Tab) and will be available in the United States early next year and internationally soon thereafter. No pricing was announced, but I'm sure the price will be competitive, in the $400 to $500 range for the basic unit.

The PlayBook features front and rear-facing cameras (you know the next iPad will include this) capable of 1080p video via a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output. It even has a USB port and micro HDMI slot-two things I wish Apple would include in the iPad!

Although the first PlayBook is just WiFi only, it's likely that the tablet is already undergoing tests with wireless operators, which should result in a cellular wireless version coming to market by next spring.

QNX Neutrino operating system

QNX is a richly-featured multitasking operating system that compares well with Google Android, Apple iOS and HP/Palm webOS. RIM purchased QNX last year. The operating system is deployed in a number of markets such as transportation and nuclear energy. Developers have found the BlackBerry development environment difficult for full-featured applications since it's based on a limited Java virtual machine (JVM). However, RIM's QNX Neutrino operating system provides support for Adobe Flash and Air, Java, HTML 5.0 and C++.

The QNX Neutrino operating system is the home run of the PlayBook. It is a full-fledged multitasking operating system that will provide developers with core operating system services and tools to build a wide range of (mostly enterprise) applications.

But make no mistake about it: I believe that QNX will migrate into all of RIM's smartphone and tablet products and become the dominant RIM operating system. It's important to note that QNX Neutrino and BlackBerry 6 are not mutually exclusive. BlackBerry applications can and will run on top of QNX.

BlackBerry PlayBook for the Enterprise


BlackBerry PlayBook for the enterprise 

It is important to remember that, while RIM is focusing on the professional market with the PlayBook tablet, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is only targeting IT managers for purchase. I expect that a number of professionals and consumers will purchase the BlackBerry PlayBook just as they have done already with the BlackBerry smartphone.

I believe it is smart for RIM to position the BlackBerry PlayBook primarily for the enterprise market. However, the cost of a tablet in addition to a laptop and smartphone will affect TCO.

What will make the PlayBook useful in the enterprise is the creation of applications specific to the PlayBook to increase productivity for the company's employees. For example, pharmaceutical firms will develop PlayBook applications for sales execs that provide easy interaction with doctors about new medications in a smaller and easily portable package. And a number of firms will develop enterprise collaboration applications.

PlayBook will not replace, however, industrialized tablets that have been ruggedized for outdoor use such as public safety (police, fire, medical) and military, for example.

Final thoughts

The BlackBerry PlayBook represents what is clearly going to be a flood of tablet devices over the next year. RIM has set out to focus on its strengths in the enterprise market with BlackBerry PlayBook. While perhaps a niche at first, enterprise tablets will eventually be a very big market. 

Kudos to RIM for a well-thought-out offering with the BlackBerry PlayBook. I look forward to test-driving a unit next year when it becomes available. And kudos on using QNX and, thus, providing the RIM development community with an industrial-strength mobile operating system.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at gerry.purdy@mobiletrax.com.

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time. 

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