It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Research in Motion since they launched the new PlayBook tablet this week. In fact, there’s been a decided touch of motion sickness in the waves. Apart from RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis’ rather touchy interview technique and frequent cries of “it’s not fair, it’s just not fair”, the PlayBook itself has failed to gain universal acclaim. The lack of PIM applications is seen as a major disadvantage and even the BackBerry Bridge, which allows the PlayBook to share BlackBerry’s PIM features, doesn’t pass muster. If the PlayBook is to be sold exclusively to BlackBerry fans it will not become the mass-market competitor to the iPad that RIM had hoped for.
These shortcomings, and the “work-in-progress” nature of many of the company’s responses, is all the harder to understand because this product has been nearly a year a-coming. RIM have had plenty of time to get everything right.
Personally, I’m a bit sad about this. What I like about the PlayBook above all is the size. I’ve mentioned many times that my principal reservation about the iPad is the size. While it is perfect for media consumption, it’s too big to make a comfortable book reader (not that that stops me or millions of others) and it weighs just a tad too much. The difference between carrying an iPad and an 11in MacBook Air is minimal, yet the Air remains a more capable all-round tool for many tasks, including writing.
Despite Steve Jobs’ Verbot last year on any mention of a 7in tablet, I still think there is room for a smaller iPad—a middie device between the iPhone and the “magical” pad. If Amazon do enter the market with a 7-in Android device (see my earlier post today) there is no doubt the smaller size factor will become accepted. In the medium term, I believe, Apple will be forced into the ring. After all, Steve Jobs once said Apple would never make a netbook. Yet they did, and they improved the genre as you would expect. They called it the MacBook Air.