Yesterday saw the latest battle in the war we’ve started to think of as “Is this the next [insert Apple product here]-killer?” Canadian tech company Research in Motion, following up on its Blackberry Torch release this past summer, has announced that it is joining Samsung, HP and Dell in the race to build what it hopes will unseat Apple as the dominant tablet brand: the Playbook is RIM’s offering, and the reviews are calling it an incomplete success, but a strong one. (FP’s Matt Hartley says, “If this isn’t a home run for RIM, it’s a bases loaded triple.”
Starting with the bad news: the Playbook has no cellphone antenna, making it competitive with the low-end iPads but not anything with 3G or better service. If consumers want mobile data, they’ll have to already own a Blackberry. RIM says it will address this in the future. (But the iPad exists now, people!) The only other big complaint is the screen size, but at seven inches, it’s bigger than a Kindle, so it’s hard to see that slowing sales down.
Aside from that non-trivial knock on the Playbook, most of the reviews have been pretty positive. Dare we say it, but a lot of the reviews sound like the Playbook might be what some techies had hoped the iPad would be all along: it plays well with Flash, it doesn’t need special pricey cables to connect to a computer (seriously—USB exists, use it), and it plays video over HDMI cable. More than all that, the IT crowd will love this thing just for playing well with RIM’s enterprise servers.
Whether any of that will make a difference when Apple announces the new version of its iPad is, of course, the big question. Between the latest iPhones and iPod Touches, it’s nearly certain that the iPad will soon have the same videoconferencing that the Playbook has, and could be available as soon as the spring 2011 launch of the Playbook. If this is supposed to be the iPad killer, it’s sure not moving fast enough to make a getaway.
• RIM takes a page from Apple for new PlayBook [Globe and Mail]
• A first review: PlayBook gets RIM in the tablet game [Toronto Star]
• Playbook Tablet is Blackberry’s Revolution [PC Magazine] • RIM’s PlayBook gets thumbs-up from analysts [Financial Post] • RIM makes bold play for the tablet market [CNet]