RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet: 10 Factors to Remember Before You Buy

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-04-14

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet: 10 Factors to Remember Before You Buy

The Research In Motion BlackBerry PlayBook is scheduled to hit store shelves April 19 for $499 to $699, depending on the storage capacity customers are after. The device comes with a 7-inch display, full touch functionality, and a new operating system, called BlackBerry Tablet OS. Like the rest of its mobile product line, RIM designed this tablet for corporate customers.

As the PlayBook's launch nears, folks around the U.S. are wondering whether the device is the best tablet option for them. Even though the iPad 2 is continuing to sell well, there are still a growing number of consumers and enterprise customers that want to consider all their options before they plunk down hundreds of dollars for a device.

The following items will help walk those folks through all the factors that they must keep in mind before they either opt for the BlackBerry PlayBook or go with another device. Some elements of the BlackBerry PlayBook are outstanding, while others are not. There are some major market factors that customers must keep in mind.

Read on to learn more.

1. It's best with a BlackBerry smartphone

One of the most controversial features of the BlackBerry PlayBook is the company's BlackBerry Bridge. With the help of that option, tablet owners can link the device to a BlackBerry smartphone and access Messenger, email, contacts and a calendar, among other things. However, Playbook users can't access any of those applications without a BlackBerry smartphone. Furthermore, the BlackBerry Bridge doesn't work with non-BlackBerry smartphones.

2. The display is small.

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook ships with a 7-inch display. At that size, RIM has said that the device is far more mobile than larger counterparts, like the Motorola Xoom, which has a 10.1-inch display. However, 7 inches is somewhat small in relation to the rest of the tablet market. Considering the leader in the market, the iPad 2, comes with a 9.7-inch screen, those looking for extra display real estate might not like what they find in the BlackBerry PlayBook.

3. Don't expect 4G.

RIM plans to launch a 4G-compatible version of the BlackBerry PlayBook later this year. Until then, customers will only be able to connect to the Web from the tablet via WiFi or by tethering it to a 3G-capable smartphone. If neither is available, the tablet can't connect to the Internet.

4. App selection isn't great.

Initial reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook cite the relatively small number of available applications as a major issue with the tablet. According to the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, the device will ship with 3,000 tablet applications. Apple's iPad, on the other hand, has 65,000 applications available to it. That's a major discrepancy that customers might want to keep in mind.

BlackBerry PlayBook: Weighing the Pros and Cons

5. It's for the enterprise customer.

Although it will be available to consumers, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a decidedly enterprise-focused tablet. To corporate customers, that might be a good thing, since RIM has always been able to deliver worthwhile experiences. But for consumers who are still on the fence about which tablet to buy, the BlackBerry PlayBook probably isn't the best option.

6. Pricing is a consideration.

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook will go on sale April 19 for $499 to $699 for between 16GB and 64GB of storage. With that deal, customers will get the same amount of storage (and functionality, since it's WiFi-only out of the box) as Apple's WiFi-only iPad 2, which retails for the same prices. The 32GB Motorola Xoom with 3G built-in and a free upgrade to 4G on the way retails for $600 with a two-year commitment with Verizon Wireless.

7. The iPad 2 is still out there.

Unfortunately for RIM, its tablet, like all others on the market, will be compared to the iPad 2. On paper, it might be a tough comparison for the BlackBerry PlayBook. As mentioned, the iPad 2 has a bigger screen, more applications, and a more consumer-friendly operating system. It's also the same price as the BlackBerry PlayBook. It's worth considering that before deciding which tablet-the PlayBook or the iPad 2-one should buy.

8. Other tablets are coming soon.

Although it gets all the attention, the iPad 2 isn't the only tablet on store shelves. In fact, several devices, including new Galaxy Tabs from Samsung and the HP TouchPad, are on their way to store shelves. For corporate customers, the Cisco Cius is still in the works. At this point, it might be a good idea to wait and see what other devices come out before making a buying decision.

9. It's a new operating system.

If there's anything that corporate customers don't like, it's adopting a new technology that they aren't familiar with. That's the reason the enterprise has been slow to adopt tablets. And it might also be the reason the BlackBerry PlayBook has a hard time attracting customers in the short term. Not only is the device new, but the software is new to the BlackBerry environment. And that could be enough to scare some CIOs and IT executives. Until all the kinks are worked out and corporate customers can learn more about the OS, RIM's PlayBook might sit on store shelves.

10. Reviews are mixed.

Unfortunately for RIM, reviews of its BlackBerry PlayBook have been mixed to this point. Some reviewers have been pleased with the device's display and the software's multitasking, while others have criticized the tablet for being too tied to a BlackBerry smartphone. Mixed reviews don't mean that the tablet is a poor product by any means. But they are worth considering before one opts for one tablet or another. 


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