Berry Blast!

When I first read the official announcement of the Blackberry Playbook back in 2010 I said to myself: great, finally a tablet to take on the iPad. But that was more than six months before the actual retail debut. In the meanwhile Apple released the iPad 2 and we’ve also seen a bunch of good Android Honeycomb tablets, all of which have a say in the tablet market today.

Currently the Playbook, with its QNX based operating system, is one of the four choices you have in regards to software. The others are iOS from Apple, Android from Google and webOS from HP, with the latter being on the verge of extinction as the Touchpad tablet was far from a success.

So you would think that RIM is doing just fine on the tablet market, right? Well, for each Playbook sold Apple sells 19 iPads. That’s a huge difference and there are a few reasons why the Blackberry Playbook is not selling that well, some analysts already saying it’s facing the same fate as the HP Touchpad.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a Blackberry Playbook for testing so I played with it for a few months already, along with the iPad, later upgraded to the iPad 2. I’m not going to compare those tablets here, but I’m going to make a list of the mistakes RIM did that resulted in the Playbook being so low on consumer’s preferences list today.

The biggest mistake, if you ask me, is that RIM launched the Blackberry Playbook tablet without an email client, calendar, messenger and contacts app, relying on a Blackberry smartphone to provide those services over the Blackberry Bridge software. That’s inexcusable as not all consumers have a Blackberry smartphone and because RIM is known for email. Big strategic mistake.

The second mistake was promising the ability to run Android apps, thus opening the gate to tens of thousands titles. The Android emulator is still in works and the App World portal is still scarce on good apps. Apps matter most than anything on a tablet, and RIM still fails to provide sufficient developer incentives to attract new apps.

Lastly I’m going to talk about price: if you offer a smaller tablet, with fewer apps, fewer operating system features (still immature software) and want to take on the king you got to price it lower, not identical to the iPad and iPad 2. If RIM would have priced the Blackberry Playbook at $300 instead of $500 maybe this article wouldn’t have been necessary.

But enough with complaining and end this post on a happy note by acknowledging the strong points of the Blackberry Playbook: excellent performance, including Flash 1080p playback, great form factor, build quality and innovative touch gestures starting on the screen bezel. Because of all these reasons the Blackberry Playbook is 2011’s tablet that could have been.

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