Will BlackBerry's PlayBook Start A Tablet War In The Board Room?

With today’s announcement of the PlayBook tablet PC, BlackBerry is launching a huge bid to try to retain any customers who have not yet fled to the iPhone and iPad.

Due to be released in early 2011, there is a lot for CIOs to like about the new PlayBook. BlackBerry is hoping that by making the PlayBook easy to integrate into the enterprise, and leveraging its much touted encryption security so much in the news lately, CIOs will back the PlayBook over the iPad.

Blackberry Playbook tablet PC

The PlayBook will be compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server and, when paired through Bluetooth to an existing BlackBerry Smartphone, will use the phone as a data transport, only temporarily caching content on the PlayBook.

Some features of the new PlayBook make it very desirable when compared to today’s iPad, such as support for Adobe Flash, Mobile AIR and HTML5; symmetric multiprocessing; built-in HD cameras front and back (think HD video-conferencing); microUSB connection and HDMI output. To control all of this the PlayBook will use a new operating system based on the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. What we don’t know: how long the battery will last (a big selling feature for iPads is its long battery life); and what price the PlayBook will sell for. Without seeing a PlayBook up close, it’s hard to say how these features compare to an iPad. After all, one of the most elegant things about an iPad is how it feels - you feel an almost instant connection to the device.

Another huge unknown for BlackBerry - Apple plans for an iPad v2 release, and what will be included. Whether or not PlayBook gets the CIO off the hook from providing support for iPads is a question that will play out once PlayBooks hit the stores - my guess is no. Executives will still demand support for iPads and a whole lot of iPads will sell over the coming holiday season – while PlayBooks remain unavailable.

This may be a case of too little, too late for BlackBerry. Let me know what you think @NigelFenwick

Comments

Not too late...

I believe 2011 will be the year of the "pad", so it is not too late, but to succeed two things are required: the ideal form factor and the "wow" factor. iPad has both. Android is at least one release away. Who knows that Microsoft will produce? So now comes Blackberry's answer. Indeed the jury is still out but by next year at this time I believe we will see the clear winners and losers. The issue for the CIO however is not the device; rather it is the ability to be device agnostic. i.e. thin client. The best defense here is a good offence. The enterprises that can deliver true flexible thin client computing won't care who the winners or losers are because they can support any device via VDI.

Not Too late ...

I agree Bruce - 2011 will be the year of the pad wars. It's likely only two companies will survive with any significant market share. Apple, as first in the market will almost certainly retain their leadership position; who comes in second is anyone's guess at this time but Android phones are making huge progress so Droid pads will have a rich pool of apps. The Playbook looks promising, but its lack of 3G makes it most appealing to Blackberry phone users - a subset of the total market. As you point out, from an IT perspective, perhaps the ideal answer lies in being able to provide cost effective, secure, device-agnostic connections between any device and the enterprise.

Not too late

Great comment and you hit the nail on the head for CIO's. Its not weather we support one device or the other, but how do we future proof and support the mobile future. Being device agnostic as you rightly point out is the key. We are seeing the start of true mobile computing and its stil in its infancy and like most things, if it can't transition into the enterprise it will change and just be the latest fad. There will be a lot of jostling and maturing of the "X-Pad" space in the next 12 months, so be prepared for a lot of change.

Playbook

"The majority of iPads sold are really just an iTouch with a large screen. Actually, iPad2 will likely just add the camera and microphone of the latest iTouch along with some changes in form factor. I already have an iTouch, that I use for music, podcasts, information, and browsing.

There are a number of interesting features about the Playbook though that I am holding out for, to see in action, probably not in iPad2: true multi-tasking, secure communications including videoconferencing, a richer web experience, true business apps (RIM having Adobe, IBM, SAP, Oracle at the introduction shows promise), true 1080P HD, and most intriguingly this bullet-proof QNX instant-on operating system that is self-healing and already proven itself in the Internet, electrical grid, medicine, cars and the military.

After DevCon I expect we will hear and see a lot more about the Playbook in the next few months.

Playbook

Hi Basil and thanks for your comments.

I agree that the functionality of an iPad appears to be very similar to an iTouch - perhaps with one very big difference ...size. And in this case, size does matter. It seems to me the elegance of the iPad comes from how it feels in your hands and how elegant it is when browsing sites on the web - let's face it, it's just plain fun to use. And that translates into $ for business - eBay reports iPad users spend 50% more than PC shoppers. When you couple that elegance with iTunes, then it's one hec of a combination. Sure, other technologies will can come into play to influence choice - so 2011 will be a very interesting year! I'm looking forward to seeing a Playbook in action - should be interesting.