BlackBerry Playbook: I'll believe it when I see it

The BlackBerry Playbook is being touted as the big rival to the iPad but has anyone actually seen it in action?

On the day that Research in Motion unveiled the BlackBerry Playbook, a 7-inch tablet PC that is being touted as an iPad rival, Larry Dignan and I had an interesting back-and-forth conversation later in the day about the actual device itself.

At one point, one of us suggested that the news itself was very Microsoft-like: bring it up on stage, show cool videos about what it will do and then say that it's coming soon, a time in the not-too-far, but just-far-enough distance for customers to pause before buying the competitor's product.

That's when it all started to make sense. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis brought a Playbook on stage but he didn't take a seat in a leather chair and start playing with it the way Steve Jobs did when he introduced the iPad.

And then there was that video, the one that was played before Lazaridis actually announced it. Not once, did it actually show the tablet in use. It was a nice video and showed some cool stuff - it just didn't show the device doing it. In fact, the video didn't show the device at all - until the last 20 seconds or so. And for most of that time, it didn't show anything on the screen either. Play the clip and be your own judge.

Even the demos after the event itself didn't offer a "hands-on" run-through. The blog posted a video of its hands-on, which was more of a hands-on-the-glass that it was locked behind. Ah, special effects and modern video technology. It can make us believe anything.

I know. Crazy theory, right? But now there are others out there who are also thinking it. Student/blogger Justice Conder posted an entry yesterday titled "The BlackBerry Playbook doesn't exist" - and it's starting to make the rounds on Twitter, as it should. The entry is a good one, complete with four videos that go to the heart of proving his point and he makes a very convincing argument.

I hate to keep making the comparison to Apple but it really becomes important to do. With Apple, you see the product, you touch the product and even when you can't actually buy the product that day - which rarely happens - Apple gives you an exact date. You rarely, if ever, hear a "First quarter of next year" for a release date.

A couple of other random thoughts floated around to further feed this crazy thought process. How much will the Playbook cost? No one has said a word about pricing. Will it be comparable to the iPad? Cheaper? More expensive? And how about that battery life? Got any specs? Will it do better in some conditions than others?

I'm excited as the next guy to get my hands on the Playbook and I remain optimistic that RIM will deliver on its promise. But it is very convenient how this has played out. RIM's "coming soon" announcement might just prompt CIOs to pause and maybe re-think their tablet strategies, especially as they finalize next year's budgets.