PlayBook seen as good for business base

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Research in Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) long-awaited BlackBerry PlayBook tablet goes on sale Tuesday, and the early reviews have been quite varied. From the positive end of the spectrum: "In some respects, the PlayBook is the most impressive tablet I've seen to date. Its approach to navigating among open apps is a joy," wrote Melissa J. Perenson at PCWorld.

And from the negative end: "BlackBerry Bridge is the only way to do email, calendar, address book and BlackBerry Messenger on the PlayBook. The PlayBook does not have email, calendar or address book apps of its own. You read that right. R.I.M. has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell," wrote David Pogue at The New York Times.

Before opting for the PlayBook, there are some things you should consider, writes Don Reisinger at eWeek.  It comes with full-touch functionality, offers the same amount of storage as the Wi-Fi only iPad2, and costs about the same as that rival. 

On the downside, RIM's new device has a relatively small display for a tablet, and there are relatively few apps available for it. Built for a new operating system, the BlackBerry Tablet OS, the device may still need some time before the wrinkles are ironed out. What's more, PlayBook users will have to connect the device (via the BlackBerry Bridge) to a BlackBerry smartphone to access programs such as email. 

The new tablet from RIM is walking a bit of a tightrope between consumer and business needs, points out Matt Hamblen at Computerworld. The Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook, which is being released ahead of a more consumer-oriented version, is likely targeted at the enterprise because users can get to their work email only by linking in via their BlackBerry. Because the smartphone is tethered to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, the PlayBook comes with the same RIM security features enterprise IT departments are accustomed to.

"With PlayBook, RIM is initially targeting an enterprise segment they've already had good success with," said Kevin Burden, an analyst at ABI Research. "If RIM came out with a consumer-focused tablet, head-to-head with Apple's iPad, what good is that? Motorola Xoom is a really good tablet and has gone nowhere [in sales] next to iPad, which shows you can't out-class Apple. If you try, you lose."

RIM's co-CEOs have been quick to combat less-than-stellar reviews. Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the criticsm doesn't take into account the large base of BlackBerry users, who won't be inconvenienced by the issues raised, reports Hugo Miller at Bloomberg/BusinessWeek. "A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry," he said.

Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said that the security features and ultra-portability of the device are appealing to business users. "It's far more portable, it's lighter in your hands, you can hold it for longer," he said.

For more:
- see Melissa J. Perenson's review at PCWorld
- see David Pogue's review at the New York Times
- see Don Reisinger's article at eWeek
- see Matt Hamblen's review at Computerworld
- see Hugo Miller's article at Bloomberg/BusinessWeek

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