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Can the PlayBook serve two masters?

Matt Hamblen, Computerworld | April 15, 2011
The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which goes on sale Tuesday starting at $499, is performing a balancing act between two worlds -- enterprise customers and consumers.

Some reviewers have also said that the PlayBook's 7-in. screen makes it too small for business users who need to easily run productivity applications, such as IBM's cloud-based productivity suite and Notes social business software.

But Burden said the 7-in. size, while much smaller than the 9.7-inch iPad and some others, could be just right for business users who want to easily slip the device into a jacket pocket. "That's good for mobile business," he said.

Other analysts, including those at Gartner, are less enthusiastic, pointing especially to the screen size as a problem for business users. "We believe 7 inches is not enough for a rich productivity experience and that the forced connection to a BlackBerry smartphone that you have initially through the secured Bluetooth link will be seen as limiting by users who might want to carry either a smartphone or tablet device but not necessarily both at all times," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi via email.

Gartner analysts have been harshest on the PlayBook, and recently issued a forecast for RIM's tablet sales showing that RIM will get 6.6% of the tablet market through 2012, hitting only 10% in 2015. In contrast, the iPad is expected to gain more than 60% of the market through 2012 and 47% in 2015.

Part of the reason for the PlayBook's low showing is that it will take time for RIM to attract developers to the new BlackBerry Tablet OS, based on QNX technology, Gartner said.

Gartner believes the support for RIM's PlayBook will come mainly from businesses that already have the RIM BES infrastructure or that have stringent security requirements.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, noted that RIM has said users will be able to run Android apps on the PlayBook, which isn't necessarily a selling point. "If you want Android apps, why not just use Android?" Kerravala said.

Early reviewers have also said that the PlayBook is short on apps, potentially another deterrent, especially for consumers. PC World's review noted the PlayBook's "limited app selection." About 3,000 AppWorld store apps will be available at launch, but that is only a fraction of the 60,000 available for the iPad.

Perhaps the number of applications and other adjustments desired by consumers will come soon enough, Burden said. "The consumer is very important to RIM, even though it's not its traditional base," he said. "In no way could RIM have had good sales of BlackBerry smartphones without consumers, and consumers will be very important to the PlayBook's success as well."


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