RIM Gets In The Game - In Six Months Time

Toby Leftly September 28 Mobile

As expected, RIM yesterday announced their entry into the tablet market, the Blackberry Playbook. Except the tablet won’t be available until early 2011.

RIM’s annual developer conference, DevCon 2010 saw a barrage of releases yesterday, starting with the MacBook, PlayPad, PlayBook, followed by information about Blackberry Tablet OS, the iBook, PlayBook’s operating system and WebWorks, RIM’s developer tools for building web apps optimized for the BlackPad PlayBook.

This is, of course, huge news. The world has waited with baited breath to see who will take on Apple’s iPad, and the much-rumored BlackPad was considered by many to be the world’s last best hope for peace a real competitor to the iPad.

Okay, I’m done with the strikethrough thing, I swear.

There’s more good news, too. The PlayBook boasts ‘uncompromised browsing’, RIM’s subtle way of saying that the PlayBook supports Flash. The PlayBook also supports Adobe AIR and Flash application development.

One unexpected piece of news was that the PlayBook won’t feature any kind of 3G or 4G capability – only wifi, and the ability to tether to a Blackberry cell phone. It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to tether to any other cell phone.

Other than giving Adobe the ego massage Apple never would, PlayBook boasts several features the iPad is currently lacking, such as video conferencing via front-facing camera, rear-facing camera and multitasking.

Unfortunately, and predictably, the good news ends there. The PlayBook won’t be available until early 2011, which means that all these wonderful features it boasts will most likely be added to the iPad.

And if you don’t think Apple is watching intently, ready to roll out a couple of mind-blowingly cool new features that will make the PlayBook look like a typewriter, you’re probably employed by RIM. Or Adobe.

Yet more bad news is that there has been no price announcement. Most people are surprised to discover that while Apple tends to stick to the high end of computer hardware, they’re generally pretty competitive in that space.

The iPad is priced extremely low for it’s specs, and now the pressure is on RIM to see how they’ll try to play this one.

I remember very clearly when Palm announced the Palm Pre, and then CEO Ed Colligan laughed at the idea of competing with Apple’s iPhone on price, claiming they had a better product.

RIM isn’t dumb, and they know that the world is watching. If the first videos of the PlayBook show the device choking while trying to run Flash, the PlayBook will have a shorter lifespan than the Kin.

If the price isn’t competitive, or at least close to the iPad, people will wonder publicly and loudly why they would spend more on a newcomer to the tablet world.

So RIM has it’s work cut out for it, but there’s one area I haven’t seen much discussion about – the name. The rumored name was BlackPad, but I never gave that much credit.

PlayBook suggests two things – that RIM’s tablet isn’t aimed at the stuffy enterprise market, and that RIM has been paying attention to Apple, at least when it comes to product branding and marketing.

Inviting comparisons to the market leader tells me RIM plans to come out fighting, and fighting hard. If the PlayBook’s only success is to be an ‘iPad plus Flash’ then it will have a strong niche carved out. Roll on early 2011!

Written by Toby Leftly

Toby is a Mac nerd, a hardware nerd and a web nerd, rolled into one. You can find him at accentmedia.ca or on Twitter.
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