BlackBerry PlayBook: Everything You Want to Know

RIM revealed its tablet yesterday, but you’ve probably got some questions. How’s it compare to the competition? Who’ll buy it? Why did RIM make it, and announce it now? Here’s everything you wanted to know, and more.



RIM revealed its tablet yesterday, but you’ve probably got some questions. How’s it compare to its competition? Who’ll buy it? Why did RIM make it and announce it now? Here’s everything you wanted to know, and more…

PlayBook’s Competitors

PlayBook’s specs are impressive. But how does it stand up, spec-for-spec with the market-defining iPad (which it’s most definitely designed to compete with) and the iPad’s current hottest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab?


In short, the PlayBook outperforms against the other two in several key areas–including having a meatier processor. Where it falls down is–we’re guessing–battery life. Its specs make it certainly more battery-munching than the Tab and its chassis is slightly smaller, leaving less space for batteries. The Tab already has a lifespan of less than a full working day (unlike the iPad) so we’re concerned about PlayBook.


And there’s one huge thing to remember: The PlayBook is designed to surpass the iPad’s current specs. But a refreshed edition (possibly coming with a sister iPad Mini that’s similar in size to PlayBook) is due at about the same time as PlayBook is due to arrive. And we’d guess that the new iPad will easily surpass the PlayBook’s specs–it has to really, if Apple is keen to keep its place at the top of the market.

Who’ll Buy PlayBook?

RIM unashamedly targets the PlayBook (despite its recreational name) at the enterprise market, noting in the press release that its got “advanced security features, out-of-the-box enterprise support and a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers.” There’s mention of the fact it can pair up with a BlackBerry phone, using secure Bluetooth for seamless access, on a bigger screen, to all the usual BlackBerry business-assistance systems. If our suspicions about the price (see below) prove true, the PlayBook may be the sort of device that your IT department will happily pay for, to help you work harder or more efficiently, but you may balk at yourself. This is because the PlayBook will not have much app support at launch and it will definitely lack the gadget chic of Apple’s product, and even the consumer-friendly “feel” of the Galaxy with its Android OS, now well-known in the public.


RIM has kept the pricing secret, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it doesn’t yet know itself how much the device will cost since it notes the specs haven’t yet been finalized. But RIM’s exec team is probably doing some very tricky math to price the thing at the right point relative to its competition. One may worry, though, that the PlayBook may be priced at the upper end of the tablet market–its component list alone suggests its build price may be higher than many of its peers, and RIM may even intentionally aim at the top end of the market in order to ally its product with a “professional” image. And, also, to make more raw cash.


Why RIM Made PlayBook, And Why Break the News Now?

RIM had to make the PlayBook for two reasons, both Apple’s fault. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone game, and ate lots of RIM’s lunch because the Canadian firm’s devices now look aged. The iPad is also often reported to be making huge waves in the enterprise market, which must’ve worried RIM–the iPad could easily cannibalize sales of BlackBerrys. RIM simply had to try to reclaim the higher ground, and appeal to its core audience, lest it lose its grip on the cutting edge of business mobile electronics.

As to why it broke the news now, the timing probably seemed fortuitous–RIM’s Developer Conference was running, the iPad’s main media storm has faded, and the main thrust of competing tablet PCs hasn’t been made yet.

The launch date may seem poor, as it’s in conflict with the expected arrival of iPad 2.0 (with specs we fully expect will beat the PlayBook’s) but RIM’s hands are probably tied by design/development and marketing constraints. This is especially true since Apple had been developing the iPad on and off for 20 years or more, and may even have used the iPad as a development step to building the iPhone itself, whereas RIM has had to rush the PlayBook into existence inside a year.

Does Apple’s iPad Mini Now Have to Be Real?


It’s impossible to say, but we’d have to suspect that Apple is now feeling some gentle pressure to ensure the iPad 2.0’s specs are better than PlayBook’s, and possibly to launch a new iPad Mini with a size that matches the PlayBook, the Galaxy Tab and many other competing Android devices.

What About Google’s Own Rumored Tablet?

Nobody has any idea about how RIM’s move will impact Google’s rumored plans for its own-brand Android tablet. If the project still exists Google may, like Apple, feel additional pressure to develop its efforts with some speed. It competes with RIM in the smartphone marketplace, and tackling its rival in the tablet game is probably on the cards.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)