Talking tech since 2003

For years now, Research In Motion (RIM) has developed the BlackBerry smartphone OS and product line.  While newer and more “modern” products have by no doubt taken away from the BlackBerry’s success, the fact of the matter is that RIM is still going strong.  This is because – among other things – the BlackBerry is seen as a professional device and because of the products dependable history and ability to conform to strict corporate policies it is seen as the choice for businesses and professionals who have yet to be swayed to devices such as the Apple iPhone or the new Android-based smartphones that are flooding the market.  However, despite RIM’s ability to hold a grasp on the “smartphone” market, the company has only recently become involved in the new and promising tablet market.

The up and coming BlackBerry PlayBook should, however, change that.  For those of you who don’t know, the PlayBook will be a 7″ tablet computer (closer to the size of an Amazon Kindle than an Apple iPad) sporting a 1GHz processor and BlackBerry’s legendary backbone.  What makes the PlayBook a unique contender in a market that seems to be getting more and more saturated as days go by is the fact that it will integrate with the BlackBerry smartphone, allowing for the PlayBook to take advantage of the existing smartphone infrastructure; including documents, calendars, email, and the mobile data connection.

Easily, this is one of the most important features for the PlayBook and will definitely make it a competitive product.  Why?  You see, products like the Apple iPad do indeed have mobile data options available, but require the end-user to enter a separate data contract and pay a separate monthly fee for said access.  This means that smartphone users who pay for mobile data service end up paying for each device.  By building the tethering option into the PlayBook, RIM will make it possible for consumers to experience their product in all of its mobile glory without having to shell out cash for a separate data plan each month.

On top of this, it’s important to look at the history of the BlackBerry product line and why it is still heavily used by large enterprises today.  Even though the Apple iPhone and other “new” smartphones can usually be adapted to meet the needs of businesses, many entities have already invested in BlackBerry infrastructure as well; not only in the monetary sense, but in terms of support, training, setup, etc.  Combine this with the fact that BlackBerry has a time-proven policy system which allows for companies to lock down and control devices as they see fit, and it’s easy to understand why so many large-scale operations have yet to move away from the BlackBerry platform.

This is important because the introduction of a tablet system will potentially allow businesses to finally jump on-board the tablet hay-wagon with a product made by a company that they already know, trust, and support.  And because of many businesses use of the BlackBerry platform, more and more companies may be willing to look at tablet options to make their mobile users (e.g. traveling salesperson) more productive while on the go.

Even without an existing BlackBerry smartphone, users will be able to use the device over their WiFi connections, and with RIM’s release of an updated SDK, will likely be able to take advantage of a number of mobile applications as well.  In addition to this, RIM appears to already be in the works of creating a 4G PlayBook which will connect directly to a 4G mobile network – something that is not yet possible with the Apple iPad.

I personally believe that the PlayBook would be most successful if made available as part of a “bundle” with new BlackBerry smartphones in order to not only push the PlayBook itself, but attract more users to the BlackBerry smartphone line as well.

At the end of the day, I’ve also heard that RIM is being very protective of the PlayBook prototype and did not even allow for users to get up-close and personal with the device during CES.  I guess this makes sense however, because the PlayBook truly is BlackBerry’s new game strategy, and I’m sure the last thing they want is to have it misplaced at a pub.

What do you think?  Will the PlayBook be a success?  Will it make the BlackBerry smartphone more attractive?  Let us know in the comments!

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