Tag Archives: PlayBook

From Joshua Topolsky’s review of the RIM PlayBook…

In general, the PlayBook OS feels like it’s on the ice level of a Mega Man game — everything seems to be sliding away beyond your control. It’s a sloppy feeling, and that’s compounded by the fact that the OS doesn’t seem to be fully optimized for touch input yet; I found myself tapping and re-tapping on UI elements and web navigation with no result. In web apps like Gmail (which RIM provides a direct link to on the homescreen), I couldn’t get to certain message checkboxes even after double-digit attempts. Whether this is the overall UI acting buggy or an issue with the way the browser is interpreting touches is unclear, but it’s that sort of behavior which makes the product feel unfinished.

Not optimized for touch input “yet”? Here’s the crux of the issue for this, and most of Apple’s competitors in the tablet space, with the exception of Palm’s WebOS. Rather than creating an OS from scratch that was designed specifically for touch, companies like Google and now RIM are simply buying an existing OS and rejiggering it to work with touch. And that’s never going to lead to an experience as pleasant as Apple’s iOS.

RIM seems to think that it can simply throw enough horsepower at the problem. In time, the theory goes, mobile devices will be able to run standard desktop OS software. It’s just a matter of the hardware catching up. But it’s not really about speed. There are so many other factors that make iOS superior to all the others.

I remain convinced that WebOS is the only serious competitor to iOS, as far as operating systems go. Whether or not Palm/HP can make a go of it is another story.

As far as RIM goes, I think this PlayBook will appeal to the diehards and a few IT types. But it’s going nowhere fast. All the slick hardware in the world won’t make up for a screen too small for any tablet-class usefulness, an OS that will always feel “sluggish” and unpolished (because it is), and a complete lack of a unified software ecosystem.

RIM and the “app gap”

RIM plans to add support for running existing Android 2.x apps on its upcoming PlayBook tablet to narrow its “app gap,” but also fears retribution from Oracle were it to use Android’s Dalvik Virtual Machine to do so.

Letting Android apps run on PlayBook won’t help RIM close the “app gap.” It will only give developers even LESS of a reason to write native RIM apps for it.

Almsot every day that goes by, RIM looks more and more like it’s going downhill right along with Microsoft. They’re basically pinning all their hopes on Apps somehow not being important in the near future. I think Google was planning on the same happening, but seems to have recently seen the light.

This is why I’m a bit more optimistic about HP’s chances, given how good the TouchPad looks. HP has an “app gap” too, but at least they’re trying their hardest to solidify their own platform by running WebOS on PCs, thereby increasing the installed base of users faster, rather than giving up on their own platform altogether like RIM seems to be.

Andy Ihnatko’s take on the latest PlayBook video

No, no. That’s only a dumb scheme if you think of the PlayBook as a consumer device, like the iPad. If they’re trying to sell them to IT managers instead of consumers, it’s an interesting play. To those folks, this invisible umbilical means that their lives won’t be complicated by a dumbass user (likely the kind who’s paid enough to own an estate with a living chessboard in which each of the game pieces is a painted giraffe) who loses a tablet somewhere.

I agree with Ihnatko that this move clearly shows that Blackberry is now leaning the Playbook toward the IT professional, rather than the consumer. But if you ask me, the strategy from RIM has been anything but consistent.

If the plan all along was to market it to IT, then why call it the “PlayBook.” Why the flashy promo video from a few months ago? That was clearly not targeted toward server geeks. So is this a recent decision to switch back to IT?

My guess is that RIM still doesn’t’ know what it wants to do with this product. And that’s just sad. Not only did they announce this vapor product way before it was ready; they announced it before they had even decided what the target audience would be. That’s some serious mismanagement on the executive staff’s part.

Welcome to RIM 2011. Rehashing failed Palm strategies from 2007. Why not just call it the RIM Foleo and be done with it?

Those incoherent answers during interviews with the CEO are starting to make more sense now.

At the end of the day, there’s is still no answer to the simple question: Who will buy this thing?

Maybe RIM will figure out the obvious answer and kill this thing before it launches. You’re copying that much from Palm already; might as well go all the way with it.

A browser “shootout” from RIM

In the video, a demonstrator from RIM’s Web browser development group shows the comparatively petite PlayBook and the iPad side by side, caches cleared and connected to WiFi. He loads a couple of websites simultaneously on the devices, and the PlayBook completes the load first by a large margin, beating the iPad soundly.

Videos like this remind me of how pathetic Apple used to look doing its famous “Photoshop shootout” contests on stage. They’d pit the “latest” Intel PC running Windows against the new PowerMac of the day to demonstrate that Apple’s machine could perform a series of controlled scripts a few seconds faster. Of course, that was several years ago, when processing speed was the only thing that mattered to people, and the most important product in Apple’s lineup was the PowerMac.

And it was still pathetic.

The idea that RIM thinks this is going to matter in 2010 is absurd. Here’s some advice, RIM: Ship your PlayBook, and then we’ll see how fast it is in the real world, when you’re not picking the sites to load in your own little controlled experiment. And then maybe five or six people will care.

Great Article about the decline of RIM

To sum up, RIM is at risk because its natural market is saturating and many of its customers are considering a switch to other platforms. The company may be able to bumble along in this situation for years before the problem comes to a head, but once a migration away from BlackBerry starts it would be almost impossible to stop. So if the company wants to ensure its survival, it needs to act now. Two steps are needed:

–The BlackBerry line needs to be given a several fundamental, visionary innovations that will give its core customers a reason to stay; and

–The company needs to change its development process to guarantee proper design and integration in all of its products.

Given the time needed to create a new product, these changes will take at least 18 months to bear fruit, probably more like two years. During that time RIM will remain at risk of a platform collapse. What’s worse, the company’s engineers already have their hands full copying iPhone features, customizing phones for a huge range of operators, and simultaneously creating a new operating system and developing a new version of the current one. The sort of changes I’m suggesting would disrupt that work, forcing the cancellation of some projects and slips in the schedule for others. They would make the problem worse before they make it better. In the meantime, the company would lose serious revenue, and might even miss earnings projections for a quarter or two. The stock’s value would be trashed, and there would be calls for firing management.

As the founders of the company, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis could probably pull this off without losing their jobs. And I know they have the courage to make big changes. But I doubt they can see the need, or especially the urgency. Their current processes and business practices got them to $15 billion in revenue; why should they change now? It’s much more prudent to focus on making the numbers for next quarter.

That’s probably just what RIM will do. And if it does, that’s why the company will probably eventually fail.

This is an older article that I meant to post about a long time ago. But it’s an excellent, thorough analysis why RIM is losing, and it’s not what most people assume.

When I saw the PlayBook tablet announcement, I immediately thought that RIM has a serious problem with forgetting who its loyal customer base is. It’s chasing after Apple’s audience, instead of redoubling efforts to hold on to the current audience of Enterprise business professionals. A tablet aimed squarely at the serious business professional would have been a much smarter choice for a product. It could have cut off enthusiasm for the iPad in the Enterprise, which in turn would have dulled enthusiasm for the iPhone in the Enterprise. Instead, what the PlayBook does is assure Enterprise users that the iPad is as good as RIM’s tablet at being a serious business tool. If the PlayBook is seen only as a hip consumer device, why wouldn’t customers just go for the hipper, better consumer device? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

As I’ve said before, the only thing people should be copying from Apple is the STRATEGY. Build products that complement your other products. Make your customers want to buy everything you make, and make them keep buying your products instead of someone else’s. With the Torch and now the PlayBook, RIM is trying to change its image; it’s copying Apple’s actual products, instead of the philosophy driving those products.

But you can’t beat Apple at slick, clean, consumer electronics. No one can.

Believe me, if Sony can’t do it, RIM certainly can’t.

At least they were smart enough not to call it “Blackpad”

RIM said it plans to make the BlackBerry PlayBook available to retail outlets and other channels in the U.S. in early 2011. Other international roll-outs are scheduled to take place by the second quarter of next year. Pricing was not announced.

Am I the only one who finds it curious that none of these upcoming iPad competitors are being open about pricing? What are they hiding? Could it be that Apple’s $499 entry point into the tablet market really shocked everyone THAT much, and it’s even now still impossible to even match, let alone beat, them?

A couple of thoughts on this PlayBook from Blackberry:

1. I’m glad Blackberry is trying to get into this game. The best thing for Apple is if they get to compete with more than just Android. If HP finally makes something useful out of the WebOS purchase, and Microsoft eventually drops full Windows on a tablet and adapts Windows Mobile 7 for tablet use, there may be enough platforms out there for Blackberry to carve a niche. And we’ll all benefit, too.

2. The device itself looks nice, though from the video promo linked in this article, you’d almost never know it. They spend the bulk of the ad showing the interface for the device projected against different objects. Kind of strange to me. Perhaps since the device looks very much like an iPad from the front, they were afraid people might think it IS an iPad?

3. HTML/CSS and Flash apps only? Dumb, dumb, dumb. Flash will still very much be a dog come next year. Don’t expect performance anywhere near what you see in this video. And web apps are, well, web apps. Didn’t work for Palm. Don’t see it working for Google with the Chrome OS, though they have the best shot at it. Won’t be very good for RIM. Basically, RIM is admitting that the only viable platform for native app development is iOS, so they are hoping web app developers will be their saviors, as they can “code once, ship everywhere”, including Android and WebOS devices (since they are all running Webkit browsers). But there’s no money in web apps outside of advertising, so don’t expect the best developers to come running. Worse, that’s no way to differentiate yourself in this market. Especially since iPad owners can also use web apps in addition to their own native apps. If your device has nothing special to offer, why would I buy it?

4. Not shipping until “early 2011.” So what you’re saying is, you won’t really have a competitor to the iPad, which began shipping last April, until next April, when Apple has already unveiled its iPad 2nd gen, and you’re just hoping that by announcing before Christmas you might just dissuade a few people who were going to buy iPads this Holiday Season to wait for your device, even though you’re short on little details, like, say, pricing. (And people wonder why Apple gets better press than everyone else.) This will not work. Should have held this one under wraps until it was ready. Or got it ready faster. What’s the holdup? Could it be that snazzy interface you’re showing off is nothing more than a demo video at the moment? That would be my guess.

5. Considering how well Apple is doing in the Enterprise with the iPad, it makes perfect sense for RIM to try and get into this field and hold on to its base of supporters in business. Unfortunately, with this consumer-focused ad campaign, I fear that RIM is instead going to continue to ignore its strengths and try to go for consumers with the PlayBook, which is so dumb I can’t even put it into words. Even the name, Playbook, while a thousand times better than BlackPad, is way too wannabe hipster for what should be this device’s main target audience: suits.

6. Tethering with a Blackberry (hopefully for free, but that’s unlikely) sounds like a smart move, but it severely limits the audience for this device. Imagine if Apple made the iPad compatible with Macs only, instead of being Mac and Windows compatible. That’s how stupid tethering only with Blackberries is. Especially since there’s no alternative networking on this thing other than WiFi.

7. The videos in this commercial of the interface scream vaporware. They play like display videos, rather than real-life use cases. Think Microsoft’s Courier. Clever animations are only going to lead to disappointment when the interface turns out to be less than stellar.

8. USB ports and 1080p output are great for a PowerPoint presentation, but what real-world use will they have? Consumers don’t care and the geeks who will care are a limited audience.

9. I’m still not sold on the 7-inch display idea. Everyone seems to be going in this direction, but I don’t think Apple was wrong to make the iPad substantially larger than that. 7-inches is too big to fit into a pocket (unless you’re a real nerd), so why not go to a larger 10-inch display? My guess is that this is little more than a cost-cutting measure, though I can’t imagine it cuts costs all that much. Maybe Apple is hogging up the entire world’s supply of 10-inch screens? That could easily be the case. But even if it is, a 7-inch screen makes for a device that is even LESS of a viable laptop replacement than the iPad.

10. The dual-core processor is interesting. But I wonder if that’s why there’s no mention of battery life for this device. My guess is that the real reason why there’s no mention of battery life is because there’s no real OS to test battery life on yet. Have I said vaporware yet?

Having said all of this, I’ll say that if this device ever ships, and if it comes in at a price that isn’t too crazy expensive, it might just have a chance at winning over some Blackberry loyalists who hate Apple just on principle. Might steal some of Android’s thunder, which is a good thing. But I wouldn’t be scared if I were Steve Jobs.