Blackberry Playbook – First Impression

I had the opportunity to actually see and hold the upcoming Blackberry Playbook today.  In our meeting with Research in Motion, we were initially cautioned that the device is still considered ‘BETA’ and that the OS has not yet had all the final features or bugs worked out.

My first impression was that it was too small to be really useful as a tablet.  It definitely feels more like a large smartphone than a tablet.  I was also surprised at how heavy it felt in comparison to its’ relative size.

The responsiveness of the interface and overall look and feel was quite acceptable.  There was clearly a lack of applications with most of the demo apps focusing on websites, flash demos and YouTube videos.  One feature by design is that the Playbook is unable to interact with your Blackberry Enterprise Server and thus can not retrieve emails, contacts and calendar data without being bluetooth paired to a Blackberry phone device.  While the Playbook does ship with 802.11b/g/n, it requires a symbiotic connection to a BES-enabled Blackberry in order to gain access to your Corporate services.  Battery life is indeed going to be an issue with RIM stating that their goal was to achieve 4 to 5 hours of battery life.  This is half of what the iPad and iPad 2 will deliver.

The specialized apps that were present and that I attempted to test included the Photos app and Video Calling app.  The Photos app was very responsive and provided easy panning, pinch and zoom capabilities.  I have to confess though that it is just not as ‘snazzy’ as the iOS Photos app.  The Video Calling app requires you to have an account on a Blackberry service.  You have to login each and every time you wish to use Video Calling, akin to Skype video calling.  Again, it is just not as slick as Apple’s Facetime app which does not require any account or login information and rather dynamically is able to route calls through the cloud.

It also became apparent to me in our discussions that RIM is in trouble.  The Playbook was announced in September of 2010 and yet the Playbook has not shipped.  Best guesses are that it will ship near the end of April 2011.  The pairing to the Bluetooth-enabled Blackberry requires that you have Blackberry OS 6.0 or higher.  The bulk of devices out there can not be upgraded to 6.0 and this would require users to upgrade their Blackberry devices.

While the Playbook was quite impressive on paper when it was announced in September 2010, competitors have matched or surpassed those features and are shipping devices long before the Playbook will ship.

About Grant Fengstad

I’m a technology professional in the travel and transportation sector and have been very involved with the Internet for over 20 years.