RIM’s PlayBook Tablet – Destined for Failure

 

PlayBook by Research in Motion was released today in Canada, to little fanfare. The tablet device touted by the BlackBerry maker as a “game changer” and “iPad2 rival”, already lags behind. Remember the less-than-stellar reviews for the BlackBerry touch? People I talk to hate the new Torch as well. It’s interesting to watch RIM try to re-invent the Apple wheel as opposed to concentrating on and serving their niche – business users.

There are a number of reasons why the PlayBook is destined for failure:

The Competition – Outside of the iPad2, Motorola, Samsung, Zune, HTC and Android are all planning to release their own tablets this year. The PlayBook is likely to get lost in the media blitz to follow. What makes it different from the competition?

Missing Features – This is arguably the biggest gap and something that could plague the PlayBook. The iPad launched with access to a wide range of useful applications. While not readily available now, RIM executives have indicated that more applications will be available ‘in the future’… is that quick enough for you?

Patches, Patches and More Patches – Reviewers have commented on the regular updating required to get the PlayBook up to operational standards. Sure, some updates would normally be required, but is this yet another case of RIM deciding to ‘work out the kinks’ post-release? Or, should you wait for the tested version 2.0 instead?

Flash Instability – With the PlayBook’s Flash capability being one of the key differentiators against the iPad2, it needs to work. Even Wired commented on its propensity to crash, require updating and the general instability. If you have a competitive advantage, what good is it if it doesn’t work.

Wifi Only – While not a deal breaker, having at least an option for a mobile network access would help broaden the PlayBook’s appeal.

Email Functionality – The biggest issue with the PlayBook is the lack of email, contacts and calendar integration if you are not already a BlackBerry Messenger user. This key functionality is only available when a wireless link is established with a BlackBerry. When the link is broken, the applications disappear from the tablet. This will alienate a significant segment of the tablet-buying populous. NY Times writer David Pogue writes “RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell”.

Playbook is a slick tablet with some great features. My issue is with the way RIM are positioning the device. Instead of trying to take market share from Apple and creating a device that will ‘rival the iPad2’, they should be concentrating on serving their key customer base. Focusing on integrating functionality that speaks specifically to the business user would make the PlayBook more relevant to a consumer that already sees RIM as a market leader. Although initial sales may be lower, adoption rates by existing BlackBerry users would be much higher. Focus on what you know and do it right the first time. RIM really can’t afford to make these types of mistakes.

 

Michael Orpen, Program Design Leader

 

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