Sprint Turns Down PlayBook 4G, But This Isn't the End
This afternoon I read a post from Wired that discussed the BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM’s first ever tablet, and the fact that Sprint recently turned down the opportunity to strike a deal with Resources In Motion to produce and sell a 4G version of the tablet. Now, with the amount of competition in the tablet industry right now I am always giving companies a critical eye when judging the direction they take tablets. But even I felt that Christina Bonnington, a writer with Wired, took things a bit too far when she started her article off by saying that “RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet just can’t catch a break.” Sure, the general point of her post was to convey the point that Sprint announced that they wouldn’t be selling a 4G version of the tablet, but beyond that I think this whole situation has been blown out of proportion.
Admittedly I myself am somewhat disappointed that the PlayBook isn’t going to see the glory of direct 4G connectivity anytime soon, as this was one of the things I personally was rather excited about when I discussed the PlayBook’s potential towards the beginning of the year. But the more that I think about it, the nature of the PlayBook means that 4G (or even 3G or any other type of carrier-based network connection) really isn’t a huge deal and quite honestly doesn’t seem like something the PlayBook needs in order to gain traction with consumers.
Let me explain myself. You see, to me the PlayBook doesn’t seem like it was ever intended to be marketed and sold predominately as a standalone tablet. Sure it very well can be used in such a fashion over a WiFi-based Internet connection, but to me the real beauty of the PlayBook is shown in BlackBerry Bridge; the utility that allows the PlayBook to integrate with a user’s BlackBerry smartphone; allowing users to access their mail, messages, calendars, tasks, memos, contacts, and even Internet and Intranet connections right from their tablets on a larger screen.
In all honesty, this is perhaps the only reason that I’d consider a PlayBook. Of course Apple is going to be competing heavily with this feature down the road when iCloud is made available to the public, but even then iOS devices will only be able to “sync” instead of accessing data directly from a device. So even though data from your iPhone will be able to make way to your iPad, doing so will not be “direct” and will still rely on syncing; something that I myself am not very fond of. And that Internet sharing? That will still be a matter of configuring hotspot access on an iPhone and accessing it as a wireless hotspot on the iPad; something that the combination of a BlackBerry handset and PlayBook tablet appear to handle much better.
So what am I getting at? Simply put, I don’t think the PlayBook really needs to see 4G glory because by design it’s already quite functional in its own way; albeit only to BlackBerry owners. In all honesty, though, I just cannot see a 4G PlayBook working out. I mean, potential customers would be dealing with Sprint to start off with (something that I wouldn’t be opposed to, but I hear many people outside of the Bay Area would tend to avoid because of sub-par service), and at that would still have to buy the PlayBook instead of a device such as the Motorola Xoom or 3G Apple iPad. So what is Sprint (or BlackBerry) missing out on by not putting a 4G PlayBook on the market? Not much at all.
But the question still remains. Does the fact that Sprint turned down RIM on the 4G PlayBook mean that the tablet is forever doomed? I don’t think so at all.
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