When we had a quick hands-on with Research in Motion's PlayBook back in CES 2011, it looked really impressive. Smooth multitasking with a lightweight body, a dual core processor, and plenty of RAM - it seemed like a pretty good new contender for the currently saturated tablet market dominated by Apple. As it heads for a launch on April 19, the early reviews of the device are rather lackluster. The responses coming from prominent tech journalists sound eerily reminscent of RIM's first attempt at a touchscreen device, the Storm. The Storm suffered from numerous software and hardware glitches upon its release, and on many occasions, owners of the device were forced to hard reset the device by removing the battery and restarting the device. This time around, the complaints rest not with bugs in the device, which runs the QNX OS, but with the lack of apps available.
The New York Times' David Pogue lists in his review what he liked about the device - the hardware, the WebOS-like navigation, wireless transfer of media, and BlackBerry Bridge. The latter complements owners of BlackBerry devices very nicely by mirroring a user's contacts, email, instant messages, and the BlackBerry's data connection - all over an encrypted connection. The device also outputs to a television nicely via a HDMI connection. And of course, there is the Flash support that gives the PlayBook and its Android-based rivals an edge over the iPad.
But as Pogue harshly points out in his criticism of the device, there's a huge catch - if you want to read your email, it has to be over BlackBerry Bridge. Consumers that do not have any BlackBerries prior to their purchase of the PlayBook might be shocked to find out there is no native email application included on the device - at launch, anyways. The same goes for calendars, contacts, and BlackBerry Messenger. RIM has apparently forgot about including these apps on launch by banking everything on BlackBerry Bridge, although they have promised to deliver these staple apps by this summer.
Similar thoughts have been levelled in reviews conducted by the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and Engadget's Tim Stevens. Praise was given to the device's camera quality and the hardware build, and some mixed opinions on the device's battery life of approximately five to six hours. The complaints about the lack of apps are universal.
Although RIM has been hard at work polishing up the device before its consumer launch, it found itself in the middle of a few public relations blunders - in an interview with the BBC, RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis stormed out after the interviewer asked about RIM's problems in overseas markets, calling it "unfair" that he was being asked about a "national security issue" in what was supposed to be an interview about their latest product. RIM's two CEOs were also missing from a high-profile event held by RIM on Thursday to promote the PlayBook.
The PlayBook will be available in the US and Canada at price points of $499, $599, and $699. Three capacities will be offered: 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB.