RIM Ships BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet: Some Good News and Bad News

RIM's new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet runs Android applications. That's the good news. But, as Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy explains here, the really bad news is that RIM's new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet won't run native email.


Research In Motion just announced that it is finally shipping the BlackBerry PlayBook. I hate to tell you, but I've got some good news and bad news.

Let's start on a positive note. RIM has announced support for running Android applications on the BlackBerry PlayBook. If you purchase a BlackBerry PlayBook, you will be able to use the Android Marketplace, download any of more than 200,000 Android applications and have the application run on the BlackBerry PlayBook. Since the BlackBerry PlayBook is an entirely new platform running RIM's new QNX operating system, there are not many native QNX applications. RIM's engineers figured out a way to run Android applications, giving them a large number of applications that customers can use right away.

RIM also announced that QNX will support running Java applications as well. This will enable the BlackBerry PlayBook to run more than 25,000 Java applications. These two players for Android and Java will kick-start RIM for the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The bad news

Now, before you get too excited, I have to give you some really bad news: the BlackBerry PlayBook won't run native email. I know exactly how you're going to react; at least this is how my son Jason Purdy, Mobile Program Manager for the Associated Press, reacted:

"Dad, I was shocked when I found out the BlackBerry PlayBook wouldn't do native email. Are they crazy? That's so insane. BlackBerry is email. How are they going to sell a new tablet device in today's world that won't run email?"

"Hold on there, Jason. I believe you've overreacted a bit. I didn't get to finish what I was saying. The BlackBerry PlayBook actually does run a form of email by providing a viewer/remote control of your BlackBerry smartphone. Here's the way it works. You bring your BlackBerry smartphone close to the BlackBerry PlayBook and launch the BlackBerry email viewer/remote control application. It uses Bluetooth to connect with your BlackBerry smartphone. Then the application allows you to manage your email through your BlackBerry smartphone. It uses the larger screen so you can better view your messages. The PlayBook does do email, just not native in the device. RIM promises that native email will be available later in the year. So, you'll only have to put up with a little inconvenience for a few months."

"OK, Mr. Know-it-all, what if I don't have a BlackBerry smartphone? The BlackBerry PlayBook will only do online email. If all it will do is let me to manage my BlackBerry smartphone (assuming I have one), why don't I just use my BlackBerry smartphone for email and not fuss with all that rigmarole? Why didn't those esteemed, high-paid execs at RIM wait to ship the BlackBerry PlayBook until it had native email? Are they hurting that bad to get a few months of additional revenue while ticking off just about every customer that buys the device?"

"Well, Jason, I'm sure that the RIM execs thought that, since the BlackBerry PlayBook is targeted primarily at enterprise customers, that enterprise IT staff could get a few BlackBerry PlayBook units, begin development and testing, and then, when they were ready to roll the BlackBerry PlayBook out to their employees, native email would be available."

"Sometimes you have to remember you are supposed to make life easier for customers, Dad. They should have withheld the need to generate revenue with a not-ready-for-prime-time product and made a bigger splash when they were ready to ship the product with native email."

"Yes, I agree with you, Jason. Perhaps they thought that the issue would bring a lot of publicity to them-even if much of it was negative."

Final thoughts

Eventually, I think things will look up for RIM and the BlackBerry PlayBook. However, right now, there's one very big problem: RIM should not be selling the BlackBerry PlayBook yet, at least not until they fix the gigantic problem and provide native email. I recommend that anyone who is interested in the BlackBerry PlayBook hold off until RIM provides native email. Then, it should receive serious consideration.

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.