RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

Summary: RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie says the PlayBook tablet is going to be the most important launch since the first BlackBerry. He's rewriting the "underpromise and overdeliver" CEO game plan.

SHARE:

Research in Motion is promoting a no-compromise strategy with the PlayBook tablet and arguing that the device is going to be the most important launch since the first BlackBerry.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the PlayBook and its QNX operating system, which will support Android and BlackBerry Java apps, will set a product upgrade cycle that will lead to more tablets and superphones.

Listening to Balsillie talk about the PlayBook you couldn't help but wonder what happens if the tablet flops. Balsillie predicted a "highly successful" launch and "enterprise greatness," but the company declined to project units. RIM has 4G tablets and phones planned. "You'll see why we're bullish on the company," said Balsillie on an earnings conference call. “Will be the most significant development for RIM since the launch of the first BlackBerry. Being a no compromise device matters."

Related:

Nothing like promising the Holy Grail for the tablet market. Here's a look at why RIM thinks the PlayBook will be an important launch:

  • CIOs are on board with the PlayBook. “A good portion of Fortune 500 will receive PlayBooks for review,” said Balsillie. CIOs want 10s of thousands of PlayBooks to evaluate.
  • The PlayBook will support multiple environments such as Android and Java.
  • And RIM's no compromise pitch will win in the market.

The rub: RIM is in a transition period in the first quarter. Balsillie plugged BlackBerry World in May and said that BlackBerry OS 6.1 will be a transition to QNX devices in early calendar 2012.

Balsillie thinks the PlayBook will lead to a QNX operating system and architecture that's future proof.

Simply put, RIM is betting the company on the PlayBook and is prepping for a lot of units. "We feel this is the winner. Get it out as soon as possible, but make it stable," said Balsillie. The game plan revolves around the PlayBook driving sales for RIM and new BlackBerry devices. Balsillie talked superphones. "Your jaw will drop," he said.

Balsillie is playing up RIM's product roadmap, but in many respects is just raises expectations. In one swoop, Balsillie nuked the typical "underpromise, overdeliver" game plan of most CEOs. RIM devices haven't been able to generate buzz for quarters. Balsillie said that RIM has solved for the app ecosystem and new devices.

Ultimately, the PlayBook bet revolves around whether you think Balsillie's bluster is believable.

The flip side of the argument and big concerns:

  • Can RIM manage multiple platforms on one tablet? In many respects, RIM's approach sounds like virtualization. While the PlayBook's versatility may be impressive, others could view it as a Frankentablet.
  • Why would developers both with Java apps for BlackBerry when they can just work on Android?
  • How will RIM manage the BlackBerry OS 6.1 transition? We all know QNX devices are coming so why not wait?
  • Is RIM's roadmap good enough to put it ahead of Android rivals and Apple? The company needs a leapfrog.
  • If RIM's new products don't deliver the company could be facing a lost fiscal year with margins falling at a rapid clip.

Bottom line: There are definitive answers here, but Balsillie certainly raised the expectations for the PlayBook.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, BlackBerry, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

48 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

    No, the software is confused, the size is wrong, there is no email (WTF? Isn't this why people buy RIM product?!), the Android compatibility is slow and half-baked (no Honeycomb).

    If they've bet the company on this thing they are in serious trouble.

    Anyone wanting an Android Tablet; this isn't that.
    jeremychappell
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @jeremychappell That is a great point, Email is why people choose Blackberry and hopefully they will have it fixed soon.
      slickjim
      • Well until they fix email, this device is just another Foleo.....

        A companion type device that requires a BB phone to use it at its full potential. I don't see as much BB phones today as I did a year or two ago.
        dave95.
      • I feel sorry for the tech guys...

        @Peter Perry

        I feel sorry for the tech guys who have to try to explain tethering to any enterprise exec... Two devices, the Plaything and the crackberry. The Plaything is totally reliant upon a BB phone to send and receive mail. The Plaything has a pitiful battery life and thanks to it tethering off the BB, The BB will have a pitiful battery life too. And the first time an exec has to assist in troubleshooting...

        LOL... Fahgeht about it... Game over Rim...

        Shorting RIMM is a no brainer.
        i8thecat
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @jeremychappell

      No email? WHAT?!?!?!

      What on earth is this thing for?
      SlithyTove
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @SlithyTove I think, to have **something** (anything) to try and counter the "one, two punch" of iPhone and iPad. Trouble is, iOS is so far ahead of this it isn't even funny.<br><br>I guess the rise of Android on the smartphone should be giving them nightmares. Clearly they don't see Android as a serious challenge, having an "Android in VM" isn't very smart if you're worried about Android (because they don't have that on the smartphone). If you start to think about this the whole strategy is predicated on Android being no threat at all:<br><br>1) If Android is a threat the LAST thing you do is make it so your customers are running Android apps, especially as they WON'T RUN on your smartphones.<br><br>2) If you're not going to offer Android smartphones (they aren't) then you make sure your tablet isn't predicated on your smartphone. The PlayBook isn't completely functional without a Blackberry smartphone behind it. Clearly they don't think any of their customers are going to buy Android smartphones.<br><br>3) If you are serious about Android apps, and think the application ecosystem is actually worth having you offer up to date support (Honeycomb). You don't reply on the "not meant for tablets version" for the VM.<br><br>4) You don't put the whole shooting match into a slow, battery sapping VM.<br><br>RIM clearly don't think they have anything to fear from Android, they are caught in the headlights of iOS.<br><br>This isn't a very good plan.
        jeremychappell
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @SlithyTove Porn?
        Graham Ellison
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @jeremychappell
      jay.duran@...
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @jeremychappell The price needs to be right and it needs to be done. Maybe those things are true at this point, but the product isn't ready to ship yet. I think the size is right, and the Android compatibility is wonderful.
      Jimster480
      • Let me get this straight ..

        @Jimster480 .. <i>"...The price needs to be right and it needs to be done."</i><br><br>The price? When email is *only available* when tethered (a la ball & chain) to a Blackberry? When the battery life is poor? When the device has already been shown by independent tech reviewers to overheat significantly? <br><br>... what the h3ll's the matter with you? Do you think all those deficiencies (of the most critical ones) are worth the same price as a near, feature-complete iPad?!? Wtf? Are you out of your mind?<br><br><i>"..Maybe those things are true at this point, but the product isn't ready to ship yet."</i><br><br>.. where have you been the last 6 months, Siberia? RIM has been trumpeting this device for months: all talk and no substance. Oh wait! Maybe they <i>might</i> have it ready by the time <i>iPad IV</i> is released .. pffft.<br><br><i>"...I think the size is right, and the Android compatibility is wonderful. "</i><br><br>You're entitled to your opinion, but please ... please! leave the delusional stuff at the door.
        thx-1138_
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @jeremychappell
      The end of an era because they didn't hink about competition.

      Going down please.
      em17976@...
  • Past experience doesn't create confidence.

    RIM doesn't have a good record on new to market devices. The first 2 storms touch devices were very bad and that is why they are in the spot they are today - loosing market share. Not sure they can pull this tablet thing off first time.
    danzig90
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @danzig90 The problem with the storm was that stupid push button screen thing, if not for that people liked the phone.
      slickjim
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @Peter Perry

        Well that was the whole bases of the phone, that stupid push-button screen. They made the mistake in listening to a niche set of consumers who complaint about lack of physical buttons on touch-screen phones. Big mistake. They've tried to catch-up since with iPhone-like multi-touch but is still failing.
        dave95.
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @Peter Perry
        The first Storm was a disaster, but the Storm2 was actually pretty good. I used mine for 18 months and other than the lack of OS 6 (nothing to do with the click screen) I still liked it.

        I use a VZW iPhone4 now, mainly because of the software and the fast webkit browser (BB 5 browser really sucks). I still prefer the Storm2 for typing, however.
        Asiafish
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @Peter Perry I still use the Storm, the pushbutton screen is what actually attracted me to it, it is a great phone and works very well, my only problem with RIM is the fact that they decided to not support upgradability to OS 6.0 or future OS upgrades, with that I lost all respect of the RIM business model. I have played with the Playbook and think it runs as fast as other tablets I have used, the tethering thing is just stupid and if they do not offer it at a very low price then they will just be shooting themselves in the foot.
        ldselder
      • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

        @Peter Perry As mentioned by other the RIM nternet experience was rubbish. Many have clearly failed to appreciate the V6 on Torch is superb. I was totally fed-up that RIM didn't react BUT I'm fully committed to the Torch and much prefer my mail on that to a corporate app on my iphone. So... BES and Torch wins for me; not even close !

        Size: 10 inch is way to big for corporate users wanting a mixed use device. I want mine for in the car, on the back of the headrests playing movies; and I want to slip it in my hand to go to meetings. I wont do any of that with a 10" device so lets see how this fits the bill.

        Theres way too much hype for ipads in the corporate field. They are consumer devices and anyone thats tried a secure corporate app will be aware of the limitations. I gave mine back but am currently considering the RIM. and some Android devices for the home.

        Future proof??? ipad without flash or java support. And thats more future proof??? Dont make me laugh. Theres way too much Apple fanatism here... cat everyone just be happy with choice and live together.
        johnmckay
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @danzig90 They need to step up their game if they are going to compete.
      Jimster480
  • Supply Chain

    I had read that some of the chips for Playbook come from a plant in Japan that is currently offline (will post link when I find it again). The combination of the iPad2 beating them to market and a supply shortage could spell disaster.
    TBone2k
    • RE: RIM's big bet: Can the PlayBook future proof the company?

      @TBone2k RIM said it was unaffected by Japan.
      Larry Dignan