Tag Archives | RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

Blackberry Playbook Reviews and the Premature OS

Tech critics are saying plenty of nice things about Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook, but nearly all the reviews end the same way: Don’t buy it.

The conclusion was predictable. Out of the box, the Playbook lacks native e-mail and calendar apps unless you’ve got a Blackberry phone nearby. There are hardly any third-party apps, and Android app support isn’t coming until the summer. In addition to missing features, some critics had problems with Adobe Flash (big surprise there), and others ran out of memory after running more than a few tasks at once.

But most reviews also note that software updates came in at a rapid pace, and many of the Playbook’s missing features will arrive in a matter of months.

Therein lies a problem with the tablet reviews of today: they all describe a product that may be quite different tomorrow.

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BlackBerry PlayBook Reviews: This Could be a Cool Product. Eventually!

I haven’t laid hands on RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook myself yet–except at trade-show booths–but the first reviews are in for the long-awaited tablet, which goes on sale on April 19th. They all praise certain things about it–the interface, the multitasking muscle–but none of them are raves. A high percentage, in fact, advice against buying it right now, pointing out its dependence on a BlackBerry handset, the lack of true native e-mail and calendaring, and bugginess. (Although RIM says that 3000 apps will be available at launch–which isn’t iPad numbers, but does sounds respectable to me for a brand-new platform.)

After the break, my traditional look at the last paragraphs of the initial reviews.

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Android Apps on the PlayBook: This Doesn’t Change Everything!

Yesterday, BlackBerry maker RIM confirmed what sounded at first like a wild rumor: Its PlayBook tablet, coming on April 19th, will run Android apps even though it’s not an Android tablet per se. Apps written for Android 2.3 Gingerbread will be another PlayBook option along with native programs written for RIM’s new QNX-based tablet OS and ones built in Adobe AIR.

As usual with RIM execs, co-CEO Jim Balsillie explained the news in a way that was, um, a bit twisty. (Balsillie and fellow co-CEO Mike Lazaridis have a manner of spelling out their company’s strategies that reminds me of a Choose Your Own Adventure book.) But if I understand Balsillie correctly, he’s saying that the Android compatibility isn’t there as a primary source of apps. People are going to want to run software that’s been designed to take advantage of the PlayBook’s hardware. The large quantities of Gingerbread apps–what he calls “tonnage”–are there in case anyone’s worried that there won’t be enough PlayBook apps, or the right apps for every purpose.

That sounds reasonable enough to me. But it also sounds like it’ll be a distinctly minor aspect of the PlayBook’s, well, playbook.

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RIM’s PlayBook Has a Price and a Date

RIM has finally announced the specifics on how much you’ll pay for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and when you’ll be able to do so: It goes on sale April 19th for the familiar-sounding prices of $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), and $699 (64GB). The 7″, businessy tablet is the single most intriguing iPad alternative, simply because it’s not that much like an iPad; it’s looked good in demos for months, and it’s be intriguing to see just how close it comes to living up to its hype and promise, both of which are considerable.

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HP Playfully Punches RIM's Playbook

Noticing that Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook looks a lot like the HP TouchPad, Laptop Mag’s Mark Spoonauer has instigated a minor spat between the two companies.

A little background: HP’s 10-inch TouchPad uses WebOS, the operating system HP acquired along with Palm last year. The first device to use it, Palm’s Pre, launched in 2009. RIM’s OS is powered by QNX, a company that RIM acquired last year, and the 7-inch Playbook’s interface is built from scratch. Both platforms feature an app tray on the bottom of the screen and large panels representing open apps above. At a glance, they’re nearly identical.

With that in mind, Spoonauer asked a marketing executive from each company to comment on the similarities.

Here’s John Oakes, the HP TouchPad’s director of product marketing:

“From what we’ve seen in the market, there are some uncanny similarities. It’s a fast innovation cycle and a fast imitation cycle in this market … and we’ll keep innovating, we’ll keep honing and those guys hopefully will continue to see the value in it and keep following us by about a year.”

And here’s Jeff McDowell, RIM’s senior vice president for business and platform marketing:

“You know, cars over time end up looking a lot alike because you put them through a wind tunnel, and when you’re trying to come up with the best coefficient to drag ratio, there’s one optimized shape that gets the best wind resistance, right? Well, when you’re trying to optimize user experience … you’re going to get people landing on similar kinds of designs.”

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Adobe to Bring a Better Flash to Mobile Gadgets

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona–which I’m not attending this year–Adobe has announced that it’s planning to bring Stage Video, the FlashPlayer 10.2 feature that permits fast video playback that doesn’t kill the battery–to mobile devices. It’ll be available on Android and for RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet; the Android version will require Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which means it’ll work on tablets such as the Xoom but not on any currently-available Android smartphones.

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Android 3.0 Multitasking is More iPad than Playbook

At last, Google has posted platform highlights for Android 3.0, the version of its OS designed with tablets in mind.

The short version: Android 3.0 has software-based navigation instead of physical buttons, tabbed web browsing, big-screen Google apps and developer tools for creating modular, panel based apps that work on tablets or phones.

But most of these features are old news if you saw Google’s teaser video and Motorola’s Xoom announcement at CES. The real revelation in this documentation is how Android 3.0 handles multitasking. In Google’s words, with my emphasis:

As users launch applications to handle various tasks, they can use the Recent Apps list in the System Bar to see the tasks underway and quickly jump from one application context to another. To help users rapidly identify the task associated with each app, the list shows a snapshot of its actual state when the user last viewed it.

This makes me think Android tablets’ approach to multitasking will more closely resemble the iPad than RIM’s Blackberry Playbook.

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The Blackberry PlayBook is Not Confusing

In starting from scratch, the Blackberry PlayBook faces a challenge not shared by iOS, Android or WebOS tablets: It will be completely foreign to all users.

Fortunately, navigating the PlayBook is dead-simple, provided you memorize a handful of little gestures. That was my big takeaway after a few minutes of hands-on time today — along with multitasking that blows the iPad out of the water.

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