RIM has taken the wraps off the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and so far the reviews seem to be mixed. Shortcomings aside, though, the tablet has a number of qualities that make it uniquely suited for business use.
First, let's take a look at some of the things that make the tablet ill-suited for business:
Size -- The size debate always elicits a fair amount of passionate response. The first thing to understand is that it is purely subjective. I prefer the larger display of the iPad or 10-inch rivals like the Motorola Xoom, but many are adamant that the smaller form factor is best. Fair enough. But, the BlackBerry PlayBook is just big enough to be too large to fit in a standard jacket pocket. It is lighter than its larger competitors, but if I am going to sacrifice screen real estate for a more convenient size, I want that convenient size to fit in my jacket pocket. Just sayin'. </Ducking>
Apps -- The BlackBerry PlayBook has a meager 3,000 apps which will be unveiled next week when the tablet officially launches, and it is not capable of running apps developed for BlackBerry smartphones. While I completely understand -- and agree -- that the scope and quality of the apps is much more important than the quantity, the odds of finding apps of decent scope and quality are significantly higher when you have 65,000 to choose from that are designed specifically for the tablet, and another 300,000 or so developed for a smartphone but capable of running on the tablet.
BlackBerry Bridge-- The BlackBerry Bridge is innovative, and it should be a "pro" (which it is -- see below), but it comes with a down side as well. The problem with the BlackBerry Bridge is that it is the only way to get your email, contacts, and such onto the tablet. There is no native ability to sync the PlayBook up with crucial data like that, which makes it too dependent on the BlackBerry Smartphone.
OK. Now, let's look at some of the unique things RIM brings to the table which set the PlayBook apart as a business tablet:
BlackBerry Bridge -- Now the up side of BlackBerry Bridge -- it makes like easy for IT and security admins. The Bluetooth tethering between the PlayBook and a BlackBerry smartphone lets users access and view email and other data from the smartphone in a larger format for suited for productivity. But, IT admins only need to worry about enforcing policies and protecting data on the BlackBerry smartphone because the data is wiped from the tablet once the BlackBerry Bridge connection is terminated.
Presentations -- Other tablets have video, or even HDMI out ports that let the tablet be connected to a projector or monitor to deliver a presentation. The PlayBook, however, lets the presenter split screen -- showing the actual slides on the main display for the audience, while letting the presenter see the slide notes and other details on the tablet.
BlackBerry Culture -- This isn't a pro of the tablet specifically, but RIM BlackBerry is a staple of mobile business communications, and many companies are heavily invested in the BlackBerry infrastructure. IT admins are already familiar with maintaining remote BlackBerry devices, and users are already comfortable with the BlackBerry culture.
As a tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook seems to have some significant drawbacks. Many reviews call the RIM tablet a rushed, or unfinished work in progress. If and when RIM works out some of these issues and puts some more polish on the PlayBook, though, it could emerge as the de facto tablet for business use.