Can the BlackBerry PlayBook put RIM back in the game?

Melissa J. Perenson
29 September, 2010
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RIM took the wraps off its BlackBerry PlayBook this week, and the rumour mill churn became a reality: a BlackBerry tablet is on its way. It’s not due out until early 2011, but for now, it’s the talk of the town. And rightly so – the tablet market represents a fresh tableaux, so to speak, for RIM to position itself with a product that appeals across multiple market segments and demographics.

The unit RIM showed off at its Devcon keynote in San Francisco seems to strike some necessary and highly attractive notes. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet itself has a 7in screen, which rivals the Samsung Galaxy Tab due out in November. It packs a dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, front- and rear-facing cameras, and 1080p video recording. It also boasts a microUSB port, and microHDMI output. Not too shabby in a slim 10mm package. Those specs exceed the Galaxy Tab on paper, in some counts – and the inclusion of ports is an enticing add.

What’s most notable here is that, contrary to what many pundits thought, RIM is not solely targeting the stuffy corporate crowd with this device. Sure, it will connect directly to BlackBerry Enterprise server and it supports multitasking.

But with its microHDMI output, Flash 10.1 support with hardware-accelerated video, and a heavy push on apps and creating an app ecosystem, it’s very clear that RIM is not only looking for the PlayBook to be an extension of the CrackBerry crowd. Sure, the corporate audience will be a part of PlayBook’s future. However, even the device’s name represents what would appear to be an intended play on words: PlayBook connotes a casual, game- and app-friendly device, one that can be used in off-hours when the workday ends.

In its approach, RIM would seem to be following the model of Apple, in terms of producing a device whose appeal can span the gamer set and the connected-suit-set.

The trick, however, will be in seeing how successful RIM is in luring developers to its platform, and getting devs on-board to provide a healthy app ecosystem at launch. Ultimately, app depth and selection, coupled with the unit’s actual price, will help determine where the PlayBook will fit into the about-to-explode tablet market. I look forward to seeing how the BlackBerry PlayBook stacks up when it does launch.

RIM needed a sexy launch like the PlayBook to capture attention after the BlackBerry Torch slider phone failed to capture our collective imaginations. BlackBerry PlayBook has the potential to innovate, and to do so with style, a one-two punch that RIM sorely needed to become relevant again. Now, let’s see if RIM can deliver on the hype with the final product-and carry this momentum back to its handset platform, too.

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