RIM's PlayBook Might Show How to Succeed in Business Tablets

News Analysis: RIM's new tablet diverges from Apple's consumer-focused iPad in that it attempts to prove that there will be a robust market for tablet applications in the enterprise.

The key question that seems to be cropping up amongst those of us who pontificate about mobile devices is how much market share RIM's PlayBook is likely to steal from Apple's iPad. So I'll answer that question right up front-not much.

But that doesn't mean the PlayBook won't sell well, because I think it will. It just means that the PlayBook and the iPad aren't really competing in the same game.

Yes, I understand that they're both tablets and that you can do a lot of cool things on them that you can't do with a smartphone or even with a laptop computer. And, yes, I understand that the iPad proved that tablets were a viable format. But what the iPad didn't do was prove that it could be a compelling enterprise computing or communications platform. While the iPad does include some business-oriented functions, and while it can be made fairly secure, it doesn't match BlackBerry Enterprise Server in meeting the critical needs of the enterprise.

And, of course, this is why the PlayBook has a very good chance at succeeding in its intended market, regardless of what happens to the iPad. The PlayBook, quite frankly, isn't an iPad wanna-be; it's a business tablet that will support some consumer functions, which is exactly the opposite of what the iPad is designed to be.

When you look at RIM's presentation on the PlayBook, you'll notice that it is filled with business-related cues, ranging from the front page of The Wall Street Journal and a PowerPoint presentation, to the United Airlines flight-confirmation page. There are no games and no music chat, for instance. In addition, while the PlayBook does support the ability to play music, and while it does support two cameras, one on the front and one on the rear, they're presented as solutions to video conferencing or imaging.

Clearly, while RIM wants you to see exactly how cool its tablet is, they don't want you to think of it as frivolous. The PlayBook-despite the name-isn't designed for play at all. In fact, I would suggest that the name refers to the complex play books that National Football League teams use to prepare their game plans, rather than to some kind of appliance for playing video games.

While there are a lot of things that the PlayBook doesn't do, there are also some things that only the PlayBook-out of all the tablets being launched right now-can do. Most notably it includes support for Blackberry Enterprise Server. No other tablet offers that. The device also supports the full gamut of 802.11 flavors, so it should work in most offices just fine.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...