BlackBerry, with its diminishing legions of devoted fans, is stepping delicately into the tablet market.
The stakes are high for Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, which has seen its market-leading mobile-phone presence overtaken by the Android and Apple platforms.
Unfortunately for BlackBerry, we live in iPad’s world – a world where a successful tablet computer is crucial to the health of an overall mobile software platform.
Enter the BlackBerry PlayBook: a beautifully compact and vibrant tablet computer that runs on RIM’s entirely new tablet operating system.
The PlayBook is available now and comes in 16-, 32- and 64GB versions priced at $499, $599 and $699 – the same price points as the WiFi iPads.
There are some crucial programs missing from the PlayBook at launch, though.
There are no apps to browse e-mail, calendar or contacts (yes, you read that correctly).
For each of those features, the PlayBook pulls wirelessly from a user’s BlackBerry smartphone through a syncing program called Bridge.
All of that protected data stays on the BlackBerry as the PlayBook functions as a larger window into the phone’s e-mail and other programs. For BlackBerry users, it’s a slick solution that offers all the traditional heightened security settings of the RIM platform. Once the phone is disconnected from the tablet, all those apps go dark and the tablet is left without access to e-mail.
For users without a BlackBerry smartphone, the omission of a basic e-mail app is a monster-sized deterrent. RIM says that feature will come this summer through a software upgrade.
The PlayBook can connect to the Internet using WiFi, but also through a BlackBerry smartphone’s existing wireless data connection. This means you don’t need a separate contract with a separate carrier to browse the Web over a 3G network.