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The BlackBerry PlayBook: The Future of RIM is Now


RIM has struggled to maintain the confidence of investors and praise of consumers for a long time. Saturday’s Globe and Mail featured an excellent article  by Omar El Akkad entitled, RIM makes a play for its future. In the article El Akkad explains the history of RIM and where they plan on going. He elaborates on RIM’s recent adversity:

One Wall Street analyst calls the BlackBerry “a broken brand,” left in the dust by the design wizards at Apple Inc. and losing market share to hungry foreign competitors – and many investors buy this gloomy line of thinking. RIM’s stock, which is down by two-thirds since mid-2008, is priced as though they believe the company’s profits are about to decline – even though RIM has posted a series of record quarters, is adding millions of new users, and is prospering in fast-growing overseas markets.

I can understand why Co-CEO’s, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie would be frustrated. What more does RIM have to do to prove that they are a viable, innovative company with a bright future? How about jump into the increasingly overcrowded arena that is today’s tablet market! That’s exactly what they decided to do only one year ago. The PlayBook was conceived and built in a year. Considering the short time frame and pressure to get to market, I am impressed with the result.

RIM started out thinking about simply making a larger, “souped up BlackBerry.” This would be a tablet that would run the same software and do the same things existing BlackBerry devices did. Thankfully, they were forced to set their sights much higher after the announcement of the iPad. To release a bigger BlackBerry that ran the same software and applications would have been a total disaster.

Enter QNX: makers of some of the most stable, dependable operating systems in the world. To give you an idea, versions of QNX software run (among many others): France’s high speed train system, nuclear power plants, and the Canadarm. An undeniably impressive resume.

In RIM’s smartest move ever, and easily the smartest tech acquisition of 2010,  they acquired QNX and immediately put them to work in developing what is now known as BlackBerry Tablet OS; a version of the bullet-proof QNX Neutrino RTOS (Real Time Operating System) developed especially for the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Todd Wood, RIM’s head of industrial design was put in charge of the form factor of the PlayBook. The decision to go with the 7” size was not arrived at arbitrarily.

Mr. Wood sent his people out into the real world to look for inspiration. They came back with a theme. Many of the things people carried around with them – paperbacks, Moleskin notebooks, DVD cases – seemed to conform to a certain size.

If the PlayBook was to be truly mobile, Mr. Wood believed, it would have to be roughly the same size, something a person could hold with just one hand, unlike the iPad. The designers and the engineers agreed a seven-inch screen would meet that goal and still be able to fit the PlayBook’s brains – a high-powered circuit board sandwiched between two batteries – inside.

There are many who argue that 7” is not big enough. Mike Lazaridis responds that if you want to display content on a bigger screen, it is as simple as connecting the PlayBook via an HDMI cable to a projector or TV of any size. “What matters is how well it works,” he says. Personally, I think 7” is the perfect size for something that I want to have with me as much as possible. When I am looking to demonstrate or present something to a group, there is no shortage of output devices with standard HDMI connections.

The initial reviews of the PlayBook have tended to focus on things that will be remedied in coming months. Native email is coming in 60 days. The app experience will be boosted by full Android app compatibility this summer. 4G enabled versions are also slated to be released this summer.

As far as hardware goes, the PlayBook is positioned nicely. With its dual core 1Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, full HD cameras and more, the only issue is software which can be easily upgraded without the assistance of a separate computer.

When people realize the potential of the QNX RTOS coupled with the power of the hardware running it, I see Wall Street finally giving RIM the respect they deserve. In fact, this might happen sooner rather than later. We learned today that analysts at Oppenheimer have given RIMM shares a “market perform” rating. Go get your RIMM stock now! Smile

RIM is not a company that is struggling financially. They are debt free and “flush with more than $2-billion in cash.” If the PlayBook totally flops (which I am very confident it will not), RIM will not cease to exist. RIM is not a small company and have an established presence in worldwide markets that will not soon be relinquished. They have put a lot of eggs into their QNX basket by having the PlayBook and their future smartphones run their software. But QNX has also been around a long time (30 years) and their software is rock solid.

With the public release of the PlayBook mere hours away, we will soon see how RIM’s latest play for its future fares. I like their chances.


Thanks Bill for letting us know about the Globe and Mail article, and Tashanna for the stock tip.

22 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Anti RIM sentiment is borderline bandwagon at this point, which is the problem. Their actual results won’t change this, as it’s not based on them. I don’t think it’s particularly justified, but most people are just followers on this so it’s hard to reverse…

  2. I have been surprised by analysts saying the Playbook is DOA and other such doom and gloom predictions. RIM has made some very wise decisions lately (aside from the apparent lack of advertising for the Playbook). I think as it makes its way into people’s hands we will start to hear more praise than condemnation coming from reviewers and consumers alike.

    • I am coming to realize that analysts are in the business of telling people what they want to here. It does have an unfortunate tendancy to make something of a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to stock prices though.

    • The analysts were predicting complete RIM doom and gloom as a company since 2009. Yet they changed their tune every time they announced their earnings.

  3. I’m not that worried. It’s easy to fix the faults against the playbook, except maybe apps, but apps will come once RIM is cool again and I believe that will happen.

    I think salvation (return of cool) of RIM comes in a few steps and we’ve only seen the first one.

    1. QNX
    2. BB-ID which will allow email on the Playbook and allow people to own multiple BB devices.
    3. TAT on OS7 Playbook and Phones.

    I really think TAT can turn it for RIM. Their stuff is drop dead cool, much better than Apple or Android and when people see eye popping stuff like that they are going to say screw the reviews I want T(H)AT!

    QNX+TAT can beat Apple (although there is no need really to beat Apple, they just need to do well).

    • You present great insights I share with. RIM innovates with a global foresight. All three QNX BB-ID and TAT will propel RIM to be global leader.

    • Hi @kiddo2050,

      Douglas from RIM here. I agree with you that QNX is a key piece of the puzzle. In the case of PlayBook, the QNX-based architecture provides reliability and security while PlayBook’s 1GB of RAM and 1GHz dual-core processor creates smooth and reliable multitasking, faster app loading times and web page rendering.

      To your point about TAT, here’s a cool app demo ( showing four-finger multi-touch capabilities which demonstrate the rich graphics environment that the BlackBerry Tablet OS provides.

      Douglas, RIM Social Media Team

  4. Great post.

  5. Nice post jay,lovely piece of work….i believe RIM is set to take down the likes of Apple and Samsung in this “tablet race” all the predictions that it would fail are just mere threats against this unique product,lets watch and see whats happens by the end of Q3.

  6. It turns out RIMM bashers are individuals and institutions who hold apple stocks. There is a class action lawsuit in place to trace their identities. Analysts, traders, reporters, investors who have made defamatory statements against RIM and have damaged RIMM value are subject to such legal action.

  7. I personally CAN NOT WAIT to get my hands on my PlayBook, ever since I first set my eyes/got hold of my first Bold 9000 18 months ago I was blown away the form factor, keyboard, screen, speakers & BlackBerry OS thats when I was introduced to E-Mail on the go.

    I have never looked back since, Having said that I have bought a Nook Color, thats been rooted, its handy, but not as handy as my now Bold 9780 that is going to be complimented by the PlayBook.

    I think RIM are relying on present BlackBerry users to take the PlayBook on, thus letting us do their advertising for them, think about it, how would they “Sell” the PlayBook to a “Non-BlackBerry” user, but a BlackBerry user will show of its features with and without a BlackBerry “Bridged” to it, I know I will, Bring it on!

  8. I believe RIMM really needs to up the marketing game to really be competitive with the Apple IPad.
    I believe they have done ther right things, developed a fantastic modern new OS, made the right acquisitions – with the exception being the lack of marketing.

    People have a stereotyped view of BlackBerry OS as old and outdated. To counter this, it will take a combined effort of marketing and word of mouth – to make BlackBerry cool again. The regular consumer needs to be kept up to date – such as when the core apps will be included (60 months).

    I don’t blame RIMM for releasing this product at this time, as opposed to waiting for the core apps/Android app simulator to arrive first, as delaying would have cost them more customers to IPad 2.

    • I’ll be interested to see what happens tomorrow. I don’t expect much. I agree they need a huge campaign but they will likely wait until the product is fully ready.

      There is so much to show it will be interesting to see how they do it.

  9. You have to remember that RIM is still something of a newcomer in the consumer phone market (I don’t really consider them having entered it until their first model with a camera came out). It’s a volatile industry and if you look at the current woes of Nokia, and the historical challenges of Motorola, Sony Ericcson, Palm, and other players you realize being a strong company in these fickle markets isn’t enough. All of them above companies were leaders at one time. Heck, there’s been a few times Apple was nearly wiped out in the past, though they’re doing well now. RIM simply isn’t going to win over most analysts (and I doubt any company can win over all analysts) without years (as in 10+) of strong performance in the consumer market.

    RIM faces a challenge that few other manufacturers do – Apple and RIM make the hardware (phone) and the software (OS). If they fail or stumble on either one the product as a whole suffers, so they will always be more vulnerable than other manufacturers. Apple has the benefit of having a steady revenue stream from iTunes, a very loyal customer base (which is ever expanding thanks to iTunes and other ventures), and (at least for now) Steve Jobs (I dunno, should I count that as a negative instead?).

    The two most popular OSes in the phone market today didn’t exist a few years back (at least not on phones) and the Palm webOS was freshly designed for the market and went over so well it was bought by HP and is now going to be used on their desktops too.

    While I do think that RIM is undervalued now, I don’t think that’ll start to change until the QNX OS starts to make it’s way onto BlackBerry Smart Phones. People may then really start to see BlackBerry phones as more than business oriented models with consumer oriented additions. And many analysts will no doubt wind up saying RIM is an undervalued buy.

  10. I really think that Playbook Hardware is better than any other tablet in the market. Operating System, UI, and features are also very strong, innovative and useful. No doubt it can beat iPad very soon.

    • I agree sam, if you mean beat apple tech-wise it has already. In sales – that’s going to take a while, but really we shouldn’t care about that. Apple is doing just fine in computers and they are no where near dominant in that market. RIM just needs a good market share to start and then slowly grow it.

      RNH is certainly right RIM is new to the consumer area and right now their main focus for the PB is enterprise acceptance. This is as it should be, they would be crazy to walk away from their strength just as they are coming out with a new product.

      I think it a year or two the Playbook will be a corporate essential just like a blackberry is. It is especially suitable to business types who wear suits and overcoats.

      The real losers in this might be the breifcase makers as RIM has done away with the need to carry one! :)

  11. I would like to start by saying I cannot stand apple products and have in the past had good luck with Sony products.
    Recently I switched to Blackberries for the whole family and buisness 10 units in total, bold 9700’s.
    None of the units have ever worked properly, wireless teathering has never worked only with a wire. logging on to app world has always been a problem often time outs or server not available issues espeshly when updates come out.
    Yesterday my wife purchased the 64 GB Playbook for me as a gift. The playbook is the worst product I have seen go to market since the early tech products of the 80’s.
    blackberry Id will not recognise password on the phone but will on the PC cannot change the ID on the playbook without level one clearance from Blackberry, they are not sure how to do this yet and know it will cause additional problems. cant get help unless registerd and cant register without bridge software which wont load without the blacberry ID.
    Verdict Junk and may sink Rim. I dont own stock but if i did i would sell it.
    Blackberry released a beta quality product and their comments to me were” you have to expect a new product to have problems” My answer to Rim ” Since it is months late why not wait another month and finish the job properly.
    This product should plug into the computer or blackberry go online load the files and sync the products.
    I am forever done with Blackberry, good products let down by half baked operating systems and poor software with customer support to match.
    The stoor my playbook came from sold ten yesterday all the customers had the same experiance all were returning them for refunds today.


    • blah blah blah, is RIM supposed to be worried about you?

      More that 50,000 consumers bought playbooks on day 1. and 49000+ are very happt despite growing pains.

      I say to you grow up, and you don’t fool us, you on’t hate apple you are an apple fan boy worries that the playbokk may expose your i pad for what it ism a POS!

      • well Kiddo is a good name for a kid.

        You are rude and obviously an idiot. For your information I having been using this kind of tech device for probably longer than you have been alive, starting with the original IBM PC in 1981.
        Why would i bother to say I dont like apple? So idiots like you dont get their panties in a not for commenting on a Blackberry product when they sell the item before the bugs are out.

        For your information based on your numbers if RIM have 1000 unhappy customers in one day then they have a really big problem.

        The worst thing for Rim is a customer like you that dont provide them with service by providing feedback because they are a fanatic.

        So if yours works good luck to you but Rim wont be around for long based on this product. Maybe Mommey will buy you a new rattle.

  12. 1000/50000 = 2 percent. 98 percent happy.

    I don’t think RIM is perfect by any means but so many people come on here that just don’t like RIM or maybe have a bad exerience like you and say it’s all over for RIM they are going backrupt. In your own words 2% unhappy 98% happy. They have made more money every quarter since their existance, they are sitting on 2 billion in cash not to mention what they can borrow… but they won’t be around long…..

    You say everyone that bought at your store is taking them back. I searched Google news for news of the “big returns” of the playbook and found nothing.

    Sorry I was rude to you (and I was) but I’m just tired of all the RIM bashing that goes on.

    This is an amazing undertaking for them. Think about it. All the technical support etc. that comes with the product. All new.

    They don’t have things perfect, but they had to make a business decision to get it out. I don’t think any product is perfect. But to declare this the worst product ever just seems overboard, and I must say baby-ish.

  13. imo PB needs more useful business applications! Not games or media crap, but business-useful apps like ascendo money….

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