BlackBerry Sports Fans Finally Get a Pad: The PlayBook

Blackberry users hoping to get a tablet of their own have finally had their patience rewarded as Research-in-Motion (RIM) has debuted the PlayBook tablet, its offering in the increasingly competitive tablet space. The question facing the company and its users is if the PlayBook is too little, too late?

RIM used to be the king of the mobile-device hill with a market share that was the envy of the industry. But that is all past history, even if it is recent history, and its market share has been in freefall for the last year as first Apple’s iOS and then Android have seriously eroded its cache and more importantly its market share.

The company now seeks to roll back those market losses with the PlayBook tablet. It compares favorable in many ways not only with Apple’s offerings but also from the growing host of Android tablets. Powered by an operating system that was developed in-house for the device, it will come in three basic flavors, all with Wi-Fi, but no cellular at this point.

The PlayBook’s screen measures 7 inches diagonally and includes both front and back cameras. The entry-level model is priced at $499 and will come with 16GB of memory. The $599 model will ship with 32GB of memory and the $699 version will include 64 GB. Cellular access for the device is expected to be available this summer when Sprint starts offering connections.

For BlackBerry smartphone users, cellular can be at hand right now by using a Bluetooth connection between the tablet and the phone, providing access to all of the phone’s diverse capabilities and features including calendar, tasks and documents. For heavy BlackBerry users who want a pad interface the phone is a must since these features are not native on the tablet for some reason. There are reports that AT&T is blocking the tethering feature between AT&T Blackberry smartphones and the PlayBook, a major issue for users that seek a synchronized platform. However this could be only a short term issue.

A bigger issue is that there is currently a very limited number of apps available for the tablet, roughly 3,000. This pales in comparison to the Android and Apple app space which have hundreds of thousands of apps, although not all are optimized for their tablets. However it is expected that the PlayBook will be able to run Android apps later this year.

BlackBerry development has appeared to be almost an afterthought for many app developers, as highlighted by MLB At Bat 11 which offers the least features for a BlackBerry smartphone. The hope for sports fans is that by now having a bigger screen available, BlackBerry platforms will get more developer love.


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