Research In Motion has finally unveiled the final details on its upcoming tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. The device will launch on April 19 at a starting price of $499 for 16GB of storage. Those who wish to have 32GB or 64GB of storage will be set back $599 or $699, respectively.
With the launch details now nailed down, the time has come for both consumers and enterprise customers to start thinking about whether or not the BlackBerry PlayBook really is for them. On one hand, the device seems to be a fine alternative to Apple’s iPad 2 or the Motorola Xoom. But after further inspection, the BlackBerry PlayBook seems to leave much to be desired. And for the most part, customers will be disappointed by what they find.
At this point, it doesn’t seem that the BlackBerry PlayBook is a must-have. Read on to find out why:
1. The iPad 2 is better
Compare the iPad 2 to the BlackBerry PlayBook, and it’s hard to choose the latter. For one, the iPad 2 comes with a larger screen size. It also has an operating system that the market knows quite well. Moreover, the iPad 2 comes with 3G connectivity built-in. In far too many ways, the iPad 2 trumps RIM’s alternative. And for many customers, that’s enough for them to choose Apple’s tablet.
2. The 4G option is coming
Why should customers opt for the WiFi-only BlackBerry PlayBook when they know that 4G versions that are capable of connecting to LTE and HSPA+ networks will launch later this year? In order to connect to the Web while on-the-go with the soon-to-be-launched PlayBook, users must tether the device to a BlackBerry. It’s not convenient, and that could prove to be a liability for RIM.
3. The 7-inch display is a problem
Small displays are a problem in today’s mobile marketplace. Yes, RIM is saying that the 7-inch screen on the BlackBerry PlayBook will help make the device more mobile for enterprise customers. But, that’s not likely to convince buyers in either the enterprise or consumer markets. Larger displays make all the difference in the tablet space. It’s why Apple has a 9.7-inch display and the Motorola Xoom comes with a 10.1-inch screen. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted in an earnings call last year, 7-inch displays just don’t cut it in the tablet space.
4. Will the enterprise like the OS?
RIM has said that the BlackBerry PlayBook is designed with enterprise customers in mind. But perhaps the company should re-examine its focus. The corporate world is resistant to change, and it likes working with a known quantity. The BlackBerry PlayBook will run QNX Software’s Tablet OS. It’s an operating system that has yet to be used in the wild. And although RIM has said that testers are happy with it, the corporate world will be suspect of a brand-new operating system. Unfortunately for RIM, it probably should be.
In Search of a Killer Feature
5. Apps could be a problem
RIM has said that its BlackBerry PlayBook will support applications. That’s a good thing. However, the chances of RIM coming close to matching the 65,000 apps available to the iPad 2 seem awfully slim right now. Over time, RIM might be able to catch up. But until its platform can match the iPad 2 in the total number of available apps, it’s probably best to skip the BlackBerry PlayBook.
6. Android-based devices are compelling
There are some folks out there who have no interest in getting an iPad 2. But rather than pick the BlackBerry PlayBook, they might be better off with an Android-based tablet. Devices like the Motorola Xoom come with Android 3.0 “Honeycomb,” an operating system that bridges the gap between the desktop and mobile markets with full tabbed browsing, an Action Bar for better productivity and more. Plus, the slate of Samsung Galaxy Tab units, including one with a 10.1-inch display andanother with an 8.9-inch screen, looks awfully compelling, as well. Simply put, the other iPad alternatives look to be even more impressive than the BlackBerry PlayBook.
7. The timing is off
One of the biggest issues with the BlackBerry PlayBook is the timing of its launch. The device will be made available more than a month after the iPad 2 and just weeks and months before some of its more compelling alternatives. RIM should have either released the tablet earlier or done more to impress the market and launched it later. This in-between time could come back to haunt RIM.
8. The corporate world might prefer the Cius
Though it might be the first enterprise-focused tablet to the market, the BlackBerry PlayBook won’t be the last. The upcoming Cisco Cius could prove to be the device the enterprise is after. It will run Android, feature the same 7-inch display as the BlackBerry Playbook and, according to Cisco, deliver even more enterprise-friendly features. Some companies would be smart to wait and see the Cius in person before opting for the BlackBerry PlayBook.
9. It’s pricey
The cheapest BlackBerry PlayBook, which includes 16GB of storage, will be on-sale for $499. Those who want the 32GB or 64GB options will need to pay $599 and $699, respectively. The only issue is,the devices are priced the same as Apple’s WiFi-only iPad 2. And as mentioned above, Apple’s alternative offers much more value to customers. Based on that, it would seem that the BlackBerry PlayBook is overpriced. And that won’t help its sales.
10. What’s the key killer feature?
Take a look at the BlackBerry PlayBook’s specifications and try to find a single feature to point to that will sell customers on the device. The iPad 2 has iOS. The Motorola Xoom has its large display. The BlackBerry PlayBook has, well, nothing that can best any of the others. It’s a huge issue for RIM. And it’s arguably the biggest reason the average customer should skip the BlackBerry PlayBook and find something else worth buying.