05-31-2011 08:01 AM - edited 05-31-2011 10:18 AM
I thought I'd share my initial thoughts on the BlackBerry PlayBook.
Firstly, I think that the team at RIM responsible for bringing us the PlayBook has created an exceptional piece of hardware.
They have managed to create a device that, from initial power-on to general usage, doesn’t feel at all like an iPad clone. The packaging is sleek, black and simple, and the device is small enough to fit in one hand, yet large enough for a comfortable user experience. I wonder, however, if that’s enough for the device to succeed in such a competitive market with iOS and Android tablets currently dominating the tablet market?
As a developer, the QNX operating system was enough to attract my attention to the device and I managed to get my hands on one in advance of the UK release date of June 2011. The QNX sub-OS has has already proven itself in the most mission-critical environments where most operating systems don't dare to go, such as nuclear facilities, medical equipment and space ships.
The US pricing of the device is very competitive and on par with the iPad 2. It looks like a number of UK retailers have picked up the device (including Phones 4U) and pricing starts at £399 for the 16GB model.
The first thing that struck my about the PlayBook was the slightly unusual, almost rubbery back cover. After seeing the pristine white back cover of a friend’s iPad quickly gather scratches with the smart covers only protecting the front, I think this is a great design decision by RIM, as the durable rubber back means you can sit it on any surface without fear of damaging it.
The operating system, despite being far from perfect (please update past 126.96.36.1998 soon!) has an absolutely rock solid UI, which could be the device’s saving grace and, in my opinion, beats iOS and Android hands down. The touch sensitive bezels make use of otherwise wasted space on the chassis of the device, removing all traces of buttons from the device. A swipe from the top gets you the current application’s menu, a swipe from the bottom brings up the home screen and a swipe from the side is by far the fastest way to switch between multiple applications. Gestures were responsive and relatively jerk-free, however, I have experienced a couple of lock-ups during general usage over the past couple of days.
The decision not to include native e-mail and calendaring with the Playbook at launch is a decision which reinforces the fact that RIM are still very much targetting the corporate customer base. I feel that this will put a lot of people off at launch; however the announcement at BlackBerry World that a standalone e-mail client will be released for the device within a matter of weeks is positive news. It is reported that the client will support BIS and BES plans, but whether or not it will support IMAP has yet to be announced. Is this the case?
After having owned Android and iProducts in the past (and selling both within a month), I really want to support this device, but the lack of functionality and applications at launch is making it very difficult. RIM has announced that the PlayBook will be able to run Android applications from this summer; great news, however, I wonder if this put developers off from creating applications specifically designed for PlayBook, leaving us to run Android apps in their separate environment, potentially leading to performance/battery issues?
Additionally, the convoluted development approach could do with some refinement; however, this has already been covered by Jamie Murai in his open letter to RIM, to which a company representative answered promptly and provided some answers – this article is well worth a read if you have the time.
After a few days with the device, I’d summarise its features as follows:
For the PlayBook
Against the PlayBook
I really want this tablet to work and really hope that RIM doesn't hold back any more on updates *and* supports the development community as the lack of support from the top players is a little worrying.
05-31-2011 10:11 AM
That's a pretty fair review. Thanks for stating your observations.
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