Is BlackBerry's iPad competitor about work or about Play(Book)?

BlackBerry Playbook

BlackBerry maker RIM didn't name their new iPad competitor the BlackPad as rumored, they named it the PlayBook while at the same time saying it was geared towards enterprise. PlayBook may be a football reference but football isn't enterprise and the first thing anyone will read is "play" not "work". Why not call it WorkBook then? Why not give it a UI more suited for business than the flashy eye-candy we saw in the demo video, which has "give us your consumer dollars" painted clearly all over it? Why not give it a powerful, native, C-based SDK to write for rather than HTML 5 and Adobe Air?

RIM no doubt wants the high-profit consumer market Apple has grabbed with iPad but knows their traditional base and best hopes for early adoption are with their existing enterprise customers. That's a powerful if decidedly mixed bag of hurt when it comes to marketing.

Will they be able to leverage it into a one-two punch against Apple on both sides, or will it just confuse people, turning off business by being too slick and turning off consumers by being too serious?

We know it will be facing off against iPad 2, and maybe iOS 5 come 2011, so regardless of the "play" name, the BlackBerry tablet has its work cut out for it.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Is BlackBerry's iPad competitor about work or about Play(Book)?


I think its a huge strategical mistake to announce this device 4 to 5 months before its release... Once the iPad2 is announced and the specs shown, I think the Playbook is gonna end up with a lonely welcoming party...

Introduced way too early, I agree. Also it's reliance on BIS/BES will be a major hinderance to it gaining much traction.

Playbook is actually a common business term, as in: strategies in a business campaign.
in terms of the SDK, a native POSIX-compatible SDK will be available nearer to launch. the WebWorks SDK is to get developers started and is aimed (more) towards web developers. what many seem to be missing is the relative ease with which iOS developers should (and possibly will) be able to port their applications to the PlayBook's OS.
As an iOS user and developer, the PlayBook certainly has me interested, especially since the PlayBook is QNX-based. some interesting possibilities could result from RIM's decision to purchase QNX such as in-car entertainment with seamless integration of RIM's devices. other possibilities such as integration with TV sets, set-top boxes, payment kiosks etc could potentially give Apple a good run for their money. And if this motivates Apple to improve their products and integration, I think we all win. Kudos to RIM for offering better competition than Google ever will.

just to add, the reason for RIM to announce the PlayBook so early (I'm guessing) before availability is that it was announced at their annual developer conference which is held at the same time over the last three years (and to get the SDK in the hands of developers as soon as possible).

@Concerned Citizen: no doubt they pre-announced so devs have time to work on apps for launch. Apple announced iPad in January, original iPhone in January as well and shipped in June. It's smart even if it shows your hand. Apps are more important.
PlayBook may be a term used by business but it's not a business term. BusinessCase is, for example. RIM will need more than business to make this device a 10,000,000+ seller and part of that is consumer appeal. What CrackBerry Kevin calls bridging from 9-5 to 5-9, day and night, work and play device.
Netbook, Macbook, all the [anything]book devices have a marketing resonance, adding play is clearly a message beyond being inside football.

They should have named it Praybook. And what's with the "book" part anyway? It's not a book; it's a tablet/pad. The "book" name is more applicable to a notebook, like the MacBook. Wow. RIM is so far gone they can't even figure out a name.

Spec wise? Who cares really if its a dual core or whatever. It's how the OS operates. If its smooth or whatever.
Cameras? You know ipad 2 will have that. RAM? Goes back to OS.
Resolution? 1024 x 600. Ruh roh. That sucks. So much for the specs that will really matter.
Bottom line though, tell me why i need a 7" slab over a 3.5-4.3" slab. Especially one with a worse resolution than my iphone 4?
Part of the reason i could justify getting an ipad is due to its size, HD resolution, and it runs the same OS as my phone.
This is RIM's version of a webOS tab. A pretty poor one. Hopefully HP has something much better in mind.

I do give RIM credit for the new OS. It takes guts, vision, and a strong hand to replace a rather entrenched Blackberry OS to this new QNX-based OS. Hope they will follow through and replace BB OS on all RIM devices. They may finally be able to leave the thumb board behind, left to some sort of Blackberry Classic model, and the all new Blackberrys will be slate candy bars with multi-touch capacitive screens and soft-QWERTY keyboards.
The 1 GB RAM spec is rather interesting to me. It's tantamount to crazy as it's a rather margin busting thing sort of thing to do. Next year's sweet spot is 512 MB. Either the new OS needs the memory or RIM's got some gusto here.
Then again, the 7" 1024x600 screen is a mistake. Any 16:9 like aspect ratio screen on a tablet sized device is a mistake. Those 128 pixels matter. It's a human thing. It's a train track width sort of thing.

@Shrike RIM has confirmed that the QNX-based OS will replace the Blackberry OS on all devices, starting with OS 7 (used as a stepping stone) but a full replacement is clearly still a while off. This makes things even more interesting.

Playbook sounds like a business tablet to me.. Just because it has PLAY in it doesn't make it a kid's tablet.. I'm sure they included that word there to appeal to the consumer.. but It definitely will not turn off business folks..
That being said .. I don't think it's gonna be successful.. I just don't think Blackberry's demographic is interested in a tablet..

but if the iPad had the same specs, it would be a resounding success, right? But it's a blackberry so it's doomed to fail, hmmm........