I’ve just come from RIM’s launch event for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The tablet has evolved since CES, but my impressions of it remain the same. In short, it’s a racecar that’s missing a wheel. The PlayBook is a powerful device with solid hardware, lighter and more compact than the iPad. But by requiring a Bluetooth connection to a BlackBerry phone for basic applications like email, calendar, and IM, RIM has sacrificed consumer-friendliness for CIO peace-of-mind. As Walt Mossberg notes in his review, other apps users would expect like video-chat are also noticeably absent but will be provided via software updates in the near future.
Why, then, would RIM risk lukewarm reviews to launch a v1 product? My view is that the PlayBook is more of a proof point of what's coming for RIM than it is an iPad competitor. The PlayBook demonstrates the power of RIM's recently-acquired QNX operating system. It's an engine revving to go, and the PlayBook's 7-inch screen gives it room to make some noise. For example, the PlayBook browser handles Flash flawlessly, and the ability to switch apps and keep a video or game running in the background is truly impressive.