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BlackBerry PlayBook Differentiation and Apps

 One of the things that caught my attention when the PlayBook was first announced was how specifically RIM differentiated it from the iPad. Wish the iPad was more portable, or wish your tablet was a better form factor for using it as an e-reader? We’ll give you a 7″ tablet. Wish it had cameras? Great, we’ll give you two. Wish the iPad’s screen wasn’t so low res? We’ll give you an incredible screen that is higher resolution. Wish the iPad had rich stereo sound. Bam. Frustrated that the iPad won’t let you watch flash videos on the web? We’ll make a tablet that lives and breathes Flash. Interested in being able to browse the web on the go but annoyed by having to pay another monthly fee? We’ll let you piggy back on your phone’s data plan. Wish your tablet was built on top of the military grade security that people have come to expect from BlackBerry? You’ve got it.

Not a fan of the cold metallic back of the iPad, always nervous about scratching it when you put it down? We’ll give you a great feeling tablet with an elegant rubberized back that you don’t have to worry about scratching. Wish you could develop apps using the same language that forms the foundation of the PC (C++), allowing you to re-use existing code, well known toolsets, etc, rather than learning a whole new language (Objective C) that is incompatible with existing code and toolsets? Sure thing. Saddened by Apple’s walled garden, but not excited by the fragmentation of Android? How about a third option?

The list goes on and on.  RIM was pretty tenacious about identifying and executing on many point of differentiation.

On the app front, it’s interesting to think about what uses cases benefit from the PlayBook’s points of differentiation. That’s right down the alley of my designer and MBA student friend Graham Huber, who has collaborated with me on a couple of apps. The first app that he did, Solicit, leverages the fact that the PlayBook is easy to pass to someone and have them type in some information. The idea is to take it to trade shows, business meetings, classes, etc, and to grab people’s contact info quickly and easily. More recently, he published Vote, which allows a vote to be setup and the PlayBook to be passed around a business meeting or classroom to get a consensus on a question.

I’m curious about what apps highlight for you how to best take advantage of the PlayBook’s points of differentiation. On a related note, do you feel these points of differentiation lead to unique apps on the PlayBook platform? RIM is making headway getting the big hitting games to the PlayBook and they are working on popular apps but what has been you experience with apps unique to the PlayBook?

12 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. one of the best thing about blackberry playbook is the bridge not only you are buying a 200$ tablet instead of 700$ (sim card version of ipad), you save yourself a monthly fee of 30 $ minimum. Also the fact that wifi version of playbook comes with GPS (vs. WIFI version of IPad does not have GPS) makes it a geat navigation device. I have already loaded google map with navigation and wisepilot from android and it works perfectly. I guess we should see some more native GPS application. I would love to see BB trafic to come to playbook with integration with the map.

  2. A good article. I particularly liked the reminder of the features/benefits and points of differentiation that RIM came up with. In all honesty, they did follow through on all of them, and the only one that they have struggled with is on the app side of things.

    I think this is partly down to developers being seriously myopic due to Apple’s amazing marketing efforts and fan boy brigade.

    What puzzles me is why developers would want to continue to develop for the App Store when they are up against hundreds, even thousands of me-too products, when they could enter the App World space and have a clear run and capture a larger percentage of an all-be-it smaller audience.

    I blame RIM as they’ve constantly messed up App World. Here are just a few reasons.

    They’ve allowed people to add products with little descriptions and no screen shots. That is just plain stupid. Apple have not done that with App Store.

    The user reviews are a joke. It’s full of spurious reviews on products I know to be hopeless, and then products that pure genius end up with bad reviews from competitors. And apparently, believe it or not, publishers can actually delete reviews they don’t like. What a joke.

    Also, how can a $9.99 app cost £10 and a $29.99 app cost £30. Have RIM not heard of exchange rates or do they like ripping off people for no good reason. Don’t they realize how much it annoyed people to read a review saying “Excellent app for $1” only to discover when they go to buy it that it isn’t priced at 69p (which the exchange rate would suggest), but nearly 40% more. That is ripping people of RIM and it is getting you a bad name over here in Europe.

    Finally, why on App World can you only see the latest 25 releases. What if something was released yesterday, last week or two weeks ago. Let users browse through ALL the lastest titles in order in the same way as you can on the App Store.

    RIM need to start listening to customers. If they did they would know what they need to do, but alas, they never have and they show no inclinations to start doing so even if they do pay lip service to such a customer-centric approach.

    • Also, how can a $9.99 app cost £10 and a $29.99 app cost £30.

      ==> Couldn’t agree with you more on this. I couldn’t even find a way to price our app differently for UK on the appworld portal.
      I also just found that the same app would cost a lot cheaper in Romania.

      FWIW, you could contact the developer directly to see if they sell the app on different channels.

      • Thanks for agreeing. It’s nice to know I’m not alone on this.

        I can totally understand and agree if RIM wanted to make things cheaper for places where money might not be as freely available (e.g. in certain countries in Africa for example), but it just seems plain crazy that there is such a MASSIVE price differential between loyal Blackberry users in the US and loyal Blackberry users in the UK.

        It might only be a few pounds, but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth when you know you are getting ripped off, and at the moment RIM need all the friends they can get. You don’t win friends by ripping people off :-)

        I’ve emailed RIM about this on several occasions and even threatened to leak the story to the national press (Brits hate getting ripped off), but RIM haven’t even bothered to reply. How customer-uncentric is that!

  3. Good article. I like to see developers take more advantage of the unique swipe gestures of the PlayBook ala Quicklaunch/Shortcutme: example 2 top comer swipes brings up Apple World, 3 bottom corner swipes brings up calculator etc. I would also like to see more navigation and tv video apps for the PlayBook.

    • I also like the developers do make apps for the Remote feature of the PlayBook. That virtual remote used to play games that I saw on the Crackberry site looks nice!

  4. I must have missed the Solicit app…as usual, looks very sharp and is practical.

  5. A modest proposal.

    The playbook uses the Wofson WM8994E which
    according to the Wolfson Website has the following specifications:
    1) 24bit – 4 channel DAC and 2 channel ADC
    2) Supprts all standard sampling rates between 8-96KHz

    So asssuming that appropriate component were used on the output, I would like to see a music player app, that supports uncompressed 24bit/96KHz HD audio files either in the FLAC, DDF or Wave format.

  6. A very good article.

  7. RIM needs to look hard at the PlayBook, not just as a stepping stone to BB10, but as an entirely new platform on its own.

    Here are some “differentiating” applications:

    1. Schools! Colleges, universities, even high schools can benefit from PlayBooks. Get them in schools. Look at the current selection of school/education apps and get something started that students and teachers can use right now! I would also like to see some whiteboarding apps — collaboration in schools is a must!

    2. Businesses & corporations! BES enabled PlayBooks will open new possibilities for organizations looking to link to business apps using Citrix Receiver. The device already has barcode scanners and other tools that users can use. I think reading USB flash drives might be something RIM might want to look into. Certainly a 3G/4G PlayBook would do well in this sector. Collaboration tools (whiteboarding) is also necessary here too!

    3. Ebook readers! Kobo alone is not enough, and Kobo hasn’t seen an upgrade since launch. The PlayBook is an excellent ebook reader. There should be enough attention paid to this sector to ensure that the tools work very well. Just a bit of attention is needed, not a lot!

    4. Entertainment! Sure RIM has launched a Video Store in the U.S. The Music Store is getting better and stronger. However, while they’re a step in the right direction, it isn’t happening fast enough. Also, there is no big marketing push.

    5. Music! Apple went after musicians and artists with GarageBand. Okay, doing the same won’t “distinguish” the PlayBook, but it is certainly a bit of a hole that the PlayBook doesn’t have a similarly strong tool for budding artists.

    6. Gaming! RIM has been successful here, and I love many of the titles available for the PlayBook. More can be done, but there is a good selection of gaming apps and more to come.

    7. Communication! The biggest single app missing in App World — THE killer app for PlayBook — is Skype! RIM needs to make this happen! Sure, some might argue Netflix, but in the big picture, Skype is far and away the biggest thing missing on the PlayBook.

  8. Some good points, Daniel. Some good food for thought too! Thanks!

    More on the apps for students, teachers, and businesses too:

    * Just syncing calendars with Google or something else would be good enough for students. What’s missing is task syncing! Why no task sync on BlackBerry? If someone enters a task on their BlackBerry, how can they make it available elsewhere? C’mon!

    * Files & Folders app in App World is wonderful! RIM should have a cloud-connected File Manager too. In fact, RIM should be offering their own cloud services. Didn’t they just buy such a company from Ireland recently? When is that happening?

    * Sharepoint client for PlayBook! Another huge collaboration tool that I forgot to ask for. Sharepoint is getting to be a necessary app in many organizations.

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