Analysts Debate RIM PlayBook Future

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— Research In Motion laid out a credible game plan for asserting itself in the tablet market by focusing on enterprise and professional users, adding features unavailable on Apple’s iPad, and adopting a completely new OS developed by QNX Software Systems, which it purchased earlier this year, multiple analysts said.

Some also noted, however, that RIM still has a long way to go to execute its ideas and prove it has a viable product. RIM showed videos of the device’s capabilities during a presentation at its developers’ conference but didn’t connect a PlayBook to a projector to do a live demonstration, they noted.

RIM’s PlayBook, touted as enterprise-ready and “the world’s first professional tablet,” is due to ship sometime in early 2011 in the U.S.

“RIM gets some credit for targeting an enterprise instead of consumer user,” said Carl D. Howe, Yankee Group director of Anywhere Consumer Research. “If they try going for the consumer out of the gate, they’ll run right up against iPad. By targeting enterprises, a traditional RIM stronghold, they have a better shot at getting some adoption before going up against Apple.” RIM’s next target will be professionals, he said.

RIM, however, must prove that a 7-inch tablet is a better form factor than iPad’s 10-inch one, Howe said. “Like it or not, Apple has presently set the standard for tablets. By introducing a smaller device that may be more expensive because of its enterprise thrust, RIM may have made their sales job tougher than it needed to be.”

Howe also pointed out that the company hasn’t made its job easier by calling the device PlayBook if the device’s initial target is enterprise and other business users.

For his part, Ross Rubin, executive director, NPD, said the PlayBook will launch “with a strong synergistic relationship with the BlackBerry smartphone,” pointing to the PlayBook’s ability to tether via Bluetooth to BlackBerry smartphones to connect to the Internet and to display the smartphone’s content on a larger screen.

“RIM has always envisioned the BlackBerry as an alternative to notebooks, but they ran into screen-size and battery- life constraints,” he said in citing the potential for the PlayBook. Three of the four major carriers support Black- Berry tethering to laptops, he noted, pointing to RIM’s compression of data signals to conserve bandwidth. .

An independent analyst, Carmi Levy, an independenttechnology analyst, noted the PlayBook includes several features that the iPad lacks, including HDMI outputs to connect to a display, USB port, front-facing camera for video conferencing, and support for the widely used Adobe Flash web-video format.

The PlayBook is compatible out of the box with Black- Berry Enterprise Server. It lacks embedded cellular but incorporates Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/a/n to access the Internet. It also pairs with a BlackBerry smartphone via a secure Bluetooth connection to access the Internet as well as display smartphone content. Sometime in the future, the company said it intends to offer 3G and 4G models.

The 0.9-pound multitasking device packs a 1GHz dualcore processor and 7-inch 1,024 by 600 WSVGA capacitive touchscreen with full multi-touch and gesture support in a 5.1-inch by 7.6-inch by 0.4-inch chassis. Other features include 1GB RAM; dual HD camera/camcorders (front-facing 3-megapixel camera and 5-megapixel rearfacing camera) for video conferencing; 1080p HD video recording, HDMI output; and support for HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe Mobile AIR.


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