Yesterday I wrote about coverage of the BlackBerry PlayBook launch, partially inspired by three pages of coverage in last weekend’s Globe and Mail Report on Business. But I left with the question of whether competitive comparisons with the iPad are valid or can the PlayBook provide new market directions for tablets.
Certainly on content and applications, at the moment iPad has built up a significant following. But RIM has brought together a variety of technologies that could prove to be the infrastructure for a range of tablet-size intelligent devices. As Alec Saunders, who has experience with platform launches as the initial Product Manager for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, says in Playbook: Maybe just right on target:
No product team has ever produced a fully realized product on version 1. It’s simply not possible. Case in point: Apple’s version 1 iPhone was roundly panned as underpowered, with terrible battery life, poor reception, and no applications. Recall that in the early days, Apple insisted that the only applications that you would ever need on iPhone could be written as web applications. How wrong Apple was. To its credit, Apple recognized the flaw, and pivoted quickly.
Alec went on to corroborate my statement about the user experience:
In general the media are having difficulty separating the technology from the user experience. We have yet to see real user experiences that evolve from the technology behind the platform.
with his statement:
It’s not until a product meets the market that a product team can begin to listen to customers and work on delivering the feature set that customers really want to buy.
So let’s take a look from the technology perspective and RIM’s recent strategic acquisitions:
- Security: in early 2009 RIM acquired Certicom, the company behind RIM’s robust security that has lead to BlackBerry’s acceptance by government agencies in Canada, U.S. and Europe.
- Robust OS and Multi-tasking1: The QNX acquisition last year gave RIM a very robust multi-tasking real time operating system (RTOS) that is the answer to “Would you trust this to run an airplane? (or at least your spacecraft)” QNX, with its multi-processor support, is embedded in devices and software worldwide with customers such as Cisco and all the major automobile manufacturers. This is perhaps the most important acquisition RIM has made (I have been aware of the Ottawa-based company and its unique feature set since its founding in the mid-1980’s.)
- Well behaved browser: RIM acquired Torch Mobile in the summer of 2009 and built their webkit-based browser into BlackBerry OS 6. All I can say here is that, with my BlackBerry Torch experience, browsing to websites is no longer a time consuming gamble.
- Last September RIM acquired Dataviz, publisher of the Documents To Go utilities that allow you to easily read and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents as well as read PDF files on BlackBerry, iPad/iPhone, Android and even Maemo devices. Ironically I have purchased their Premium product for not only BlackBerry but also iPad.
- The recent acquisition of Swedish “The Astonishing Tribe” has brought significant mobile device user interface technology and experience into the fold.
Combining these acquisitions technology with the technology behind their legacy wireless and messaging experience, RIM’s challenge is to build devices that can deliver unique user experiences. But that only comes from the combination of developer innovation and user feedback – one reason for a launch today without a complete set of applications (including a native email application). The developers have had their chance to get some experience but now the users can talk back.
In my next post I’ll outline some of my expectations combining my own mobile experiences (BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad) with what I can see these technologies bringing into the picture in the future.
Update, April 27, 2011: RIM continues to buy additional technology. Today it was announced that RIM is acquiring Tungle, the meeting accelerator offering that makes for easy scheduling across multiple time zones and calendar applications.
- Voice On The Web: BlackBerry Playbook: iPad Competitor or Another New Category of Appliance?
- Alec Saunders SquawkBox: Playbook: Maybe just right on target.
- Globe and Mail Report on Business: BlackBerry PlayBook tries to chart a path between work and fun.
- Globe and Mail Report on Business: RIM’s edge: an operating system that ‘kicks ass’
1RIM has long been a leader in true multi-tasking on wireless devices. Their original BlackBerry was powered by the Intel 386 chip, the same virtual machine processor that gave me an employment opportunity selling a multi-tasking environment for use with MS-DOS. RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaradis reminds me of this every time we discuss our multi-tasking experiences.