The Playbook got its launch party, and Research In Motion is going all out to show what the tablet can do. But the lingering question of who the device is for still lingers.
RIM made its name with the Blackberry, a device that in the US is all but synonymous with business users. So in the US market the question that many analysts and investors asked was, why should every CEO have one?
That isn't true overseas. In those markets, the Blackberry is the province of teenagers who are surprised to learn that a phone carries voice calls, said Bart van der Horst, managing director Americas of Canalys. Therefore it makes perfect sense that the Playbook should be pitched towards the consumer market. A big selling point, he said, is not needing another data plan. The carriers don't always like it, he said. But that's a big plus.
The Playbook is slated to be rolled out on Sprint this summer and it advertises 4G access. It isn't clear when other carriers will make it available on their networks.
At the launch party demonstrators stationed with Playbooks pointed to its capability with Web surfing, games and video. Even CEO Mike Lazaridis got into the act, cheerfully showing off a driving game that he noted kept the picture on the screen level relative to the ground, while the Playbook tilted this way and that.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard made an appearance, posing for snapshots with attendees and tweeting (from an iPhone) Takin off. Had a blast RIM and blackberry y'all did an excellent Job the playbook is great. I love it. Now I need a busload of them for my teammates lol so we can all be connected. Hook a brother up lol.hint hint NYC I love y'all but I gotta get home. Yuuuuuuuaaaaaa.
Bob Hafner, managing v.p. of mobile and client computing at of Gartner, noted there is more money in the consumer market and that is why RIM is headed in that direction.
But while the theme of the Playbook - even the name - and the other new RIM offerings is the consumer, Lazaridis said they aren't leaving their business customers behind. He showed a version of PowerPoint that would make use of the Playbook's ability to transmit HDMI video out to a big screen, and noted the productivity tools were all included and run natively on the device.
But perhaps a key to RIM's strategy is evident in that the company sees it as a supplemental device, rather than a replacement for a smartphone.
Shaun Coghlan, senior product manager, said the Playbook will be able to run what amounts to a virtual machine for the Blackberry. The Playbook offers a viewer that allows it to show the emails and data through Blackberry Bridge, a piece of software that connects the device to the smartphone.
Coghlan said that the point was to make the device easy for IT departments to adapt. With the bridge system integrating Playbooks isn't as involved, and since the data is stored on the Blackberry it is more secure than on the tablet.
An IBTimes staffer's review of the PlayBook is available here.