Since RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook months ago there is a whole new landscape in the tablet market. These new competitors have many BlackBerry users wondering how the BlackBerry PlayBook stacks up to the competition and what makes it special. Here are the features I think will make the PlayBook stand out:
QNX Operating System:
I could go on about the QNX OS for ages but this is RIM’s core differentiator. It allows them to do things that would be almost impossible and inelegant on other devices. For example, the QNX based Tablet OS can be updated without rebooting and wirelessly. That means no iTunes required and if RIM pulls it off right we can get incremental updates that add functionality in easy to implement installs. The real time OS also means that multi tasking will blow away the competition. More on that…
Speed, Speed, Speed:
While the competition might also be starting to get 1Ghz+ Dual Core processors the QNX OS and how it uses the processor makes the whole difference. The QNX OS is a real time OS lets long processing operations/applications/drivers not have to hold up other processes by not locking up the processor. You will notice this on your desktop and other machines when you run more than 2 things on a dual core processor. Other functions will run much slower because the processor intensive functions are locking the processor. I am being very simplistic about this but check out the details here.
A Fresh Start:
Some/most of the BlackBerry PlayBooks competition is trying to run a smartphone designed OS on a Tablet. RIM is working the other way by bringing a secure, mission critical, top of the line microkernel OS to a Tablet form factor. In other words the same OS that runs tanks and even nuclear reactors reliably will be running your tablet.
Fastest 7 inch ultraportable tablet:
Its is currently the only player in the 7 inch field with a dual core processor and is just a tiny bit heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Most of the competition is working on the 10” size which I think does not make much sense compared to a full laptop. Still different strokes for different folks. My guess is RIM will release a 10” version in the future.
Browser with Flash AND HTML5 media:
While some Android tablets now have Flash or are getting it soon RIM has it built in. Other tablets (iPad) will probably never have it. Also the PlayBook does Flash natively and is blazing fast about it.
This can be taken as both a plus and minus. The Bridge connection to the BlackBerry means you don’t have to manage yet another email client but it does limit the functionality of the PlayBook without a tethered BlackBerry. This seems to be a developing feature for RIM.
Confirmed 4G versions:
Unlike other current tablets RIM has confirmed that a WiMax version is coming out close to launch and a LTE one will be here before the end of the year. I am sure the competition will also have some 4G versions by then (HP TouchPad) but RIM will finally not be playing catch up.
While I think the HP TouchPad will also have gestures no other tablet I know of has them. The current default gestures from the plastic bezel are cool and RIM only has room to improve on it!
The BlackBerry PlayBook cameras stack up well against the iPad though they are comparable with Android and WebOS devices. The 5MP rear and 3MP front should be fine for most applications.
MicroUSB and MiniHDMI:
One of the things that drives me nuts in the mobile space is proprietary connectors. RIM is using the same standard MicroUSB and MiniHDMI specs built into the device. No dongles required.
Enterprise Compatibility and Security:
Companies have the RIM name to fall back on when it comes to security. The QNX OS is rock solid and certified so. Something tells me the Tablet OS is not far behind. RIM has spilled a few beans about how the PlayBook fits into the enterprise angle but I expect we will hear much more at BlackBerry World in early May.
Multiple programming languages and extensible platform:
RIM currently supports Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks to develop apps but a native C/C++ and a Java platform are also coming. RIM can also add more platforms as they see fit due to the QNX architecture and update them piecemeal. More options means more developers with differing skill sets are able to create apps. Only time will tell how that will turn out but it looks promising.
Fresh start with carrier and retail partners
While not exactly a feature of the PlayBook it is a whole new chapter for RIM. They can finally do away with all the crazy control they allowed carriers on the BlackBerry Smartphones. For example, carriers now have to approve every OS update. Hopefully RIM will tell them to fly a kite. Same thing with allowing carriers like AT&T to push 25 homescreen spam icons to my BlackBerry Torch. A clean slate can let them clear that out. I am hearing they plan on taking advantage of it. A real key concession they could get out of carriers is not charging more for using your BlackBerry smartphone as a modem for your PlayBook and just using the same data out of your bucket. Details might have to be worked out but that would be an interesting twist.
Clean slate without legacy support and applications
One of RIM’s biggest issues with the BlackBerry smartphone OS is legacy support. They are still supporting older versions of BES and always need to look back to make sure they have not broken anything. The PlayBook gives them a fresh and modern start so they are not building a tablet on an OS originally designed to be a pager.
They own the whole vertical development
Both HP and Apple develop both the OS and the devices so they make sure their OS compliments every device. This is the same with the PlayBook and is really only a differentiator from the Android tablet OS. The Android phones are made by different manufacturers with each one having to deal with what Google provides them and customizing it. It makes for messy yet customizable solutions.
This also relates to how fast your tablet is outdated. With Apple you know once a year you will get see a new iPad. With Android you are going to see different ones every few months or even weeks. The PlayBook will be getting different versions but all based on the same design. This is both good and bad but I personally like the fact that I know my device will be the main device supported for apps and such for at least a year.
With that said…
I am sure there are many more reasons but share yours in the comments! Don’t get me wrong the lack of apps and loss of first to market advantage are going to be hard for RIM to overcome but RIM definitely stands a good fighting chance. Comparing Tablets is not exactly a perfect Apples vs Googles vs HPs vs RIM comparison but I will try to detail what I think RIM can do about trouncing the competition soon!