Over the past week we have been hearing rumors about a BlackBerry tablet offering; they came true yesterday – the only surprise being the tablet’s name – with RIM’s announcement, at their Devcon 2010, of BlackBerry Playbook. Having followed RIM for over twelve years and watched the “Sneak Preview” video, BlackBerry Playbook combines both their technology strengths and market strengths to launch a new era of the “professional” tablet [RIM’s term].
So you ask, what strengths are they leveraging?
- legacy multitasking smartphone experience, combined with multiprocessing on a dual core processor
- purchase last year of QNX for its robust operating system technology and expertise
- evolution of their “touch” technology expertise over the past two years
- superb graphics displays
- release of a WebKit-compliant web browser in BlackBerry OS 6
- robust security – approved by NATO and many governments internationally, yet now challenging the security investigation agencies of many countries
- wireless data transmission efficiency
- long time evolutionary experience with push technology (and its impact on battery management), email, Blackberry Messenger and document handling
- enterprise support, including BlackBerry Enterprise Server
- legacy Java support for application development, combined with support of both Adobe Flash and HTML5
- over 450 wireless carrier relationships worldwide
(Full disclosure: for the past ten days I have been experiencing a BlackBerry Torch – and an iPhone 4; an initial BlackBerry Torch review post will follow for the Canadian launch day, September 30. However, it have given me sufficient exposure to RIM’s most recent touch, display and web browser technology to support some of the statements above.)
As one who has been involved with the sale and marketing of multitasking on PC’s for 25 years, it would seem to be a “natural” that any new tablet devices should fully support multi-tasking. Recent BlackBerry smartphones have consistently demonstrated the value of true multi-tasking (and inherently the underlying virtual machine architecture); it becomes even more apparent when using the new web browser, message management and social networking infrastructure in BlackBerry OS6.
Over those 25 years one nagging complaint has been the robustness of both the Windows and Mac OS operating systems. While they have improved significantly over the past couple of years (I actually now run a Windows 7 quad-core desktop for several days without having to reboot and have occasional “total freezing” of my MacBook Pro), neither can boast a legacy of supporting nuclear power plant operations, running Europe’s high speed trains and manipulating the robotic space arm on space shuttle missions.
RIM’s most strategic acquisition, of the many they have made over the past few years, was its purchase of QNX last April. (Again a company which I first learned about 27 years ago as a supplier of robust embedded systems software.) Fellow blogger Alec Saunders, whose resume includes a year working for QNX, has more to say about RIM’s secret weapon. And watch this CrackBerry.com video for a more complete description of all the features that QNX brings not just to the end user but also to the developer community:
So what differentiates a “professional” tablet from iPad?
dual core 1 GHz processor, incorporating true multitasking and multiprocessing
dual 1080p HD video cameras (front facing and on back panel)
enterprise ready – supports the installed base of BlackBerry Enterprise server installations
the world’s most proven robust operating system – the secret sauce running Cisco routers and probably your automobile
works as a complement to BlackBerry smartphones – bringing productivity well beyond simply tethering
support for HDMI-out to larger displays
government endorsed security
BlackBerry Messenger, now elevated to a social platform for third party applications
a “developer’s paradise” for porting and developing applications (watch the video)
While the collateral talks about “video conferencing” and H.264 support, will we see a real time video calling capability? (The image on the right would certainly indicate a “Yes”.)
Will RIM and Skype finally work out a way to support a carrier agnostic, true IP-based Skype for BlackBerry conversation client? An application that would benefit significantly from RIM’s multitasking and battery management features.
Can RIM gain sufficient developer support to have an attractive array of mobile device applications?
Can RIM find an appropriately attractive price point? (No pricing was announced.)
How does it fend off Android-based and other (HP) tablets entering this market?
Bottom Line: BlackBerry Playbook has raised the bar on many technology fronts. It’s definitely a different approach to providing an electronic briefcase, especially for business users. But can RIM leverage its PlayBook feature set to attract customers beyond current BlackBerry owners to expand their market share? Don’t count RIM out of the game yet by any means; it brings more legacy mobile device experience than most attempts to enter this market. 2011 is going to become the “Year of the Tablet” with several players and market approaches.
Other RIM announcements yesterday:
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