Is the BlackBerry PlayBook competitive enough?

Summary:The upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook certainly knocks some features off the current iPad, but will it be enough to survive in the tablet market once the iPad 2 rolls off the production line?

The price tag for the benchmark of all tablets was clearly set by the entry level Apple iPad at $499.

But this set a problem for competitors and their own devices: either to have a smaller feature set and lower the price to level out as compensation for a seemingly lower powered device, or to apply a cheaper operating system like Android and maintain a similar build quality of the iPad, but with less of a marketing buzz.

Either way, the iPad is a tough cookie to crack, and so far every other competitor has pretty much bombed.

Price

The PlayBook, however, holds the same price tag of $499 as the iPad - maybe more, maybe less, as it is still early days yet. But already this bodes well for any iPad competition by appearing to be of the same value and worth as the iPad.

Features

The feature list at this point is relatively exhaustive and speculative, but already we have seen some one-upmanship on the iPad. Delivering some versions of the PlayBook with 4G LTE, it would be one of the first tablets on the market which takes advantage of the technology unlike the iPad 2 which has yet to emerge.

Plus the reported ability to run Android applications on the PlayBook will be met with surprise rather than relief. Just as the Nokia and Microsoft mobile application stores will merge, the PlayBook will get a greater spread of applications for a greater number of users, though it's not clear if the stores will merge or simply be 'available' on the BlackBerry platform.

However, unable to access corporate email without a tethered BlackBerry device will be a blow to enterprise users. On the other hand, it shouldn't have much effect on non-corporate users, who should still be able to access their Hotmail, Gmail and other web-based emails on the device.

It even gets Flash. Even the iPad doesn't have Flash.

Branding

With such a familiar BlackBerry brand behind it and a split younger generational following, it is entirely possible that Research in Motion's new tablet could serve as the first serious competitor to the iPad.

But is it enough?

But even with all this, I suspect that many will simply wait it out to see whether it becomes a popular device or not. Apple set the benchmark high, and whether Research in Motion can reach the bar, let alone raise it, there are too many variables at play at the moment.

However, Research in Motion have taken their time to consider what the iPad doesn't currently have, and capitalised upon it. The forward and rear facing camera, high definition video, Flash, the 4G and LTE technology for next-generation mobile broadband speeds, and the usual pizazz that would come with the BlackBerry like BlackBerry Messenger.

But if the iPad 2 gets there first, then the PlayBook could fall flat on its face. If the PlayBook is released before the iPad 2, then at least it has a fighting chance of making itself known before it inevitably gets pulled by the consumer market.

Do you think the PlayBook is a viable competitor to the iPad and tablet market?

Topics: BlackBerry, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets, Wi-Fi

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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