Well that day is quickly approaching, BlackBerry will FINALLY have their own tablet. The BlackBerry PlayBook ships on Tuesday (4/19/2011), so by the time the BlackBerry Users Conference comes around on May 2nd, we should have a good feeling if this product is being taken well or poorly. So here's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly concerning the PlayBook.
The hardware is a mixed bag, while it has a dual-core processor and up to 64GB space, it has a smaller 7" screen (the iPad has a 9" screen) and only 500MB of RAM (Same as the iPad). It's hard NOT to compare this to the iPad since the iPad has become the defacto standard, anything less in this price range isn't acceptable (unless it's much cheaper than the iPad, which is why I've considered spending the $200+ on a Nook and "rooting" it to the full Android platform).
I'm sort of excited to see the QNX OS in use, QNX is a very solid operating system that BlackBerry acquired to put on this device. QNX is in use from everything from cars to space shuttles, it keeps up BlackBerry's desire to be very secure, and with everyone from presidents to movie stars using it, security is a must. It'll be interesting to see when or if QNX will make it to the BlackBerry handsets, I'm guessing since they are continuing to update BlackBerry OS 6.x that QNX won't make it to the handset until later this year or next year (if ever).
BlackBerry has a solid corporate market place, so this alone could help them leverage the PlayBook into corporations, but is this going to be too little too late and will the 7" screen be a non-starter for many of their older users. BlackBerry is also popular with the teens (I'm not sure why this is, possibly due to BlackBerry Messenger, BBM), so RIM has been showing of the gaming and multimedia aspects of this new device.
In reality the PlayBook is being released too soon and is being released due to pressure of sales of Apple, since the iPad 2 came out, it's sold over 2.5 million units, with an estimated (now hold on to your hats) 30-45 million units to be sold this year (insert pause for effect)... The sales of iPad's alone is hurting PC vendors and has pushed Apple to be the second largest company in the world (Apple's Market Capitalization is at $306B).
Apple dominates this market, PlayBook only has an estimated 3000 apps that can be played on it, most of these are designed for a standard BlackBerry (and this is with RIM essentially giving away devices for free to anyone who had a good development plan for an app). RIM has mitigated the app disaster a bit by allowing people to install Android apps on their device, but here's the catch, these Android Apps need to be hosted in BlackBerry's App World (this could be considered part of the Ugly). These Android apps that the PlayBook will run, need to also be written using Android 2.3 (The PlayBook doesn't support older Android OS' and it doesn't support OS 3.0, which is Android's Tablet OS). So the very bad here is that the one Android platform that's written specifically for tablets, OS 3.0, isn't supported by this tablet, instead it's running an OS that's meant for phones.... Sigh...
As someone who's done work on BlackBerry's App World, the thought of interfacing with it is painful, for me as a app designer, the saving grace for the PlayBook would be that I could use the Android Market Place and bypass all the hurdles of App World, but I guess not (double sigh).
The Ugly is very ugly... BlackBerry is primarily known as a messaging platform, allowing users to communicate via email, BBM, phone, text very efficiently. This is the strength of RIM, they have the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) supporting this secure infrastructure and in reality it's second to none. So what's ugly? Out of the box as a stand alone unit, the PlayBook doesn't handle messaging. It doesn't have email or calendaring, it does "bridge" to your phone though and share your phone's email and calendaring, that is if your phone is a BlackBerry that's relatively up to date (I'm hoping OS 5.0 and above, but I'm guessing OS 6.0 and above). It does this via Bluetooth, which means your phone needs to be relatively close for it to work (so if you leave your phone in your office or car or if you don't own a BlackBerry, well no messaging on your PlayBook). This will be rectified I'm sure, but out of the box, messaging isn't a supported function.