BlackBerry PlayBook a strong iPad contender

BlackBerry's dominance in corporate market is an advantage for PlayBook, but RIM will still face hard battle against iPad and other rivals for customer loyalty.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Research In Motion's (RIM) first tablet, the PlayBook, is aimed at core enterprise customers and stands as a strong contender to Apple's iPad--but it still faces a tough battle for user loyalty, says one analyst.

Ovum analyst Tim Renowden said that the PlayBook from RIM has a big advantage over Apple's iPad because several businesses already use BlackBerry smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage their connectivity.

RIM is set to maintain the PlayBook's compatibility with existing BlackBerry capabilities, he said in a report released Wednesday.

This makes the BlackBerry PlayBook a "strong contender" against Apple's iPad, "at least among RIM's core enterprise consumers", Renowden noted.

He said that though the PlayBook is "aimed squarely at enterprise users", RIM has included high-end multimedia and gaming features in its tablet that will appeal to consumers, and acknowledged that business users are themselves consumers.

For instance, Amazon's popular Kindle e-reader application will support the PlayBook. The application is already available on BlackBerry smartphones, meaning that PlayBook owners will have instant access to Kindle books, similar to iPad users.

The analyst, however, cautioned that RIM will face challenges in the increasingly competitive tablet market, against frontrunners like the iPad and emerging players such as Dell's Streak and Samsung's Galaxy Tab.

RIM has seen its dominance of the enterprise smartphone market threatened by Apple's iPhone and other Android-operated handsets, said Renowden.

He explained that the pressure has been further aggravated since the debut of the iPad in June, which sparked debate about the involvement of tablet computers in the lucrative corporate market, and the adoption of consumer devices by business users.

In terms of market entry, PlayBook is a latecomer to the tablet scene, which carries a disadvantage for RIM, said Renowden who pointed to the iPad's strong headstart. The buzz surrounding its apps and their "cool factor" are "significant", he noted.

He elaborated that with several business professionals wanting to bring their own iPads to work, gaining market share and loyalty in the tablet arena is going to be "a long and hard-fought battle for RIM".

The U.S. company made headlines last August when its BlackBerry devices got banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE over a dispute about data processing and storage servers sitting in Canada, RIM's home base, and the U.S.

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