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.