RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: Unfinished, unusable

The BlackBerry-tethered tablet can't do very much, and its tethering requirement means few users can actually use it

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Bugs are to be expected in any new product, but these issues were more severe than I've seen in competitors' first-time products. It suggests a lack of quality control.

For the price of an iPad, you get a whole lot less
RIM has priced the PlayBook to match the cost of an iPad: $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB. There are no 3G models. But the real cost is higher, as you also need a tetherable BlackBerry to use the PlayBook for business communications. The 7-inch screen size is too small for many websites, as well as for text-heavy uses, and the lack of native apps means there's not much you can actually do with it.

The PlayBook has none of the emotional appeal of the iPad and its polished ecosystem, and it is less capable than a Xoom. It includes few serviceable apps, nor does user-oriented functionality for either consumers or business goals seem to have been a priority. The lack of security as a stand-alone device runs counter to the essence of RIM's reputation.

It appears RIM didn't care that its own desktop software didn't work with the PlayBook. It didn't seem to fully test the product in its initial state. And -- amazingly -- it didn't ensure the nation's top carrier would support its fundamental tethering requirement, thus rendering the device unusable by most businesses.

At the core of it all, the design of the PlayBook as a BlackBerry-dependent device was simply a boneheaded decision by executives who hoped a hit product might entice more BlackBerry sales. Hint: You need to actually deliver a hit product for that strategy to work. The iPad has been around for a year, so the benchmark for a hit tablet was not exactly a mystery.

In the six months since RIM announced the PlayBook, observers like me have raised concerns and questions. RIM executives basically said their customers like the direction RIM had for the PlayBook and naysayers would see the truth when the product launched. If RIM's customers really liked what they saw, then they deserve what they got.

But I doubt that RIM actually listened to customers or outsiders -- the train wreck is just too complete for there to have been anything other than heads deeply buried in sand. Still, it's one thing to see an impending train wreck and fret. It's another to view the aftermath -- it's a lot worse than I could have imagined, and it feels awful to look at it.

Why RIM chose to ship the PlayBook in such a state is unfathomable. The iPad 2 and Xoom have been out for weeks, so there's no heading them off at the pass. Instead, the PlayBook debuted with all eyes on it -- but instead of a world-class performer, we got the homeless guy who plays air guitar in front of the mall.

This story, "RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: Unfinished, unusable," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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