I have been meaning to write this piece for awhile now but every time I start thinking about it my head starts to hurt. Since the PlayBook launched we have heard reviewers harping about how you “need a BlackBerry” to get email on the device. RIM took it all in stride and announced that native email and PIM (Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, etc) are coming “this summer” for the BlackBerry PlayBook. They even showed off how it will look with a live demo. The thing is I am really curious about is how exactly RIM is planning on making it work.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think it is impossible in any way I am just curious what the workflow will be and if it will change the current BlackBerry smartphone paradigm. I understand why RIM is taking their time on releasing the native Email and PIM clients since they need to build the infrastructure to bring QNX to BlackBerry smartphones. They also need to include all of the BES integration and security/certifications required for a business call RIM device which does not happen overnight. The thing is I see many forks in the road for RIM on how exactly email and PIM will be handled on the PlayBook especially when you consider it from both a BIS (consumer) and BES (enterprise) perspective. Keep in mind many of these “forks” are similar for any tablet or companion device and not just the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The Split Personality Conundrum
When you get an email will both your PlayBook and BlackBerry or other smartphone notify you? I can see myself in a meeting scrambling to silence two devices. How about calendar reminders? If you snooze it on your PlayBook will it automatically snooze on your phone? What about if you read an email or accept a calendar invite will you have two different calendars? Better yet what if you send a calendar invite from your smartphone then will it also show up on your PlayBook?
I realize BES might solve some of these issues with synching to an exchange server but what about regular BIS users? Don’t get me wrong other tablets have similar issues but the elegance and simplicity of the BlackBerry Bridge suddenly makes sense. I am hoping RIM wont go down the route of using desktop manager as a way to reconcile the two devices like other tablets do.
How Many Sets of the Truth?
Similar to what I said above their is a bit of a tricky issue in terms of synching. For example, If you add a contact on your PlayBook native contacts app will it come over to your BlackBerry? How about vice versa? Will you have to deal with multiple different lists of contacts between the device?
This gets even more complicated once you start walking out the door. Currently you can get all of the latest email and PIM on your PlayBook through the BlackBerry Bridge. What happens when you throw in native email and PIM? If you have a 4G or Wi-Fi connection that could work but what happens if you don’t? Will you have to open the bridge to get the latest email or will it reconcile itself? Will the native email and PIM clients use the BlackBerry smartphone to download yet another copy of the email? That does not sound like something RIM would do.
Bigger Pipes Means…
Right now the way BIS and BES email and PIM infrastructure works is all about conserving data. That concept does not fit in well with native email and PIM on the PlayBook in many use cases. Say you are at home over a Wi-Fi connection but want to walk out of the house. It would not make sense for RIM to do what it does now and only deliver the first few lines of an email and no attachments since you might not have a network connection later. That means quite a bit more data transfer going through RIM’s NOCs.
United or Divided?
Right now the strongest use case for the BlackBerry PlayBook is for users who have a BlackBerry smartphone who can make use of the slick BlackBerry Bridge features. The question is how RIM will decide to execute their strategy to both entice BlackBerry and non BlackBerry smartphone toting users.
I would really love to hear what you all think about native email and PIM on the BlackBerry PlayBook and its future on BlackBerry smartphones. Feel free to ask any questions or expand on what I wrote above in the comments!