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Research In Motion appears to be tech’s favorite punching bag now, and the company is undoubtedly providing some reasons for others to take shots. RIM’s announcement that it will fall short of the market’s earnings expectations for its most recent quarter is one good example.
But don’t think of the RIM PlayBook as a reason to look down at RIM or the BlackBerry franchise. Technically, the product is just as sound and perhaps even more elegant that Apple’s iPad -- and certainly it’s as physically attractive at launch as the iPad.
RIM’s challenge isn’t as much with its own technology as with others.’ Namely, it’s getting killed in the ISV market as app developers follow the money to iOS and Android platforms. After looking at and evaluating the PlayBook, we’ve one conclusion:
The PlayBook is a magnificent product that could reignite the old flames of its legions of “CrackBerry” devotees. Its fit and finish, look and feel and brilliant screen and touch keyboard are markedly better than the iPad.
The CRN Test Center has found a number strengths, and number of weaknesses with the PlayBook (just as many found strengths and weaknesses with the first iPads and iPhones.) There are challenges and opportunities. RIM is making a number of announcements this week on software and apps that will make the PlayBook even better if they work, but from our initial PlayBook look, here is why we think it can be great:
-- Its size is perfect. Built at 5.1 inches by 7.6 inches wide, it’s a few ounces under a pound. While it can’t exactly fit into a jacket pocket like a phone, it’s easier to clasp in your hand than an iPad. It’s lightly rubberized casing makes it wonderful to grip. It just feels right;
-- Its 7-inch display is so bright, vivid and clear -- with HD video quality at 1080p playback -- it makes it the best display in its class that we’ve seen. It views bigger than seven inches;
-- Its touch keyboard is what you’d expect from BlackBerry: best in class. It allows for a slightly higher degree of accuracy than an iPad, and, frankly, a much higher degree of accuracy than several Android devices we’ve seen. RIM has gotten this part right, and to many that will be a really big deal;
-- Its price starts at $449 for a 16-GB version, and it tracks iPad pricing closely up the capacity ladder. That makes it competitive out of the gate on a cost-of-acquisition basis;
-- Its on-board camera is outstanding -- at least as good as any other device-based camera on the market now;
-- The swiping actions aren’t as straightforward and intuitive as with Apple’s iOS devices, but the touch feels slightly more sensitive and quicker to get a response;
-- With its BlackBerry Bridge, it’s built to integrate with other BlackBerry data and enterprise technology -- and in a secure environment. The more risk-averse enterprises may find the PlayBook head and shoulders above Android devices in this area;
-- The platform encrypts corporate data and keeps it securely walled off from non-corporate data on the same tablet. This will provide a level of security in the enterprise that other devices just don’t offer.