Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook appears to be a promising yet flawed---almost unfinished---device and the reviews are so-so. Nevertheless, there are enough goodies to keep corporate customers interested.
Among the key takeaways:
Walt Mossberg, WSJ: "RIM says it is planning to add built-in cellular data, email, contacts, calendar and the other missing core features to the PlayBook this summer, via software updates. But until then, I can’t recommend the PlayBook over a fully standalone tablet, except possibly for folks whose BlackBerrys never leave their sides."
David Pogue, New York Times: "For now, the PlayBook’s motto might be, “There’s no app for that.” No existing apps run on this all-new operating system, not even BlackBerry phone apps. (R.I.M. says an emulator that will run BlackBerry apps will come later this year.)"
Tim Stevens, Engadget: "Running the show is a dual-core, 1GHz TI OMAP processor that's expertly massaged and manipulated by the QNX OS here. QNX is a decidedly efficient and bulletproof operating system that powers everything from jet fighters to, well, little black tablets."
Mark Spoonauer, Laptop Mag: "The BlackBerry Tablet OS is a fresh new platform leveraging two key acquisitions: QNX (for its reliability and Flash support) and TAT (for its interface expertise). Together, these ingredients create an environment that's optimized for multitasking."
CNet's Donald Bell: "The BlackBerry PlayBook ably showcases RIM's powerful new mobile operating system, but its middling size diminishes many of its best features."
Sorting through these reviews you find that there are things the PlayBook does well---BlackBerry Bridge, Flash, HDMI to TV, hardware finish, QNX---and things that are lacking such as apps and the general feeling that the tablet isn't quite complete.
In other words, PlayBook is an imperfect device that has a ton of potential. I'm going to view these reviews through one prism: Is the PlayBook enough to defend its enterprise turf? The answer appears to be possibly. Here's why:
BlackBerry Bridge: Most of the reviews thought that BlackBerry Bridge was impressive, but also the biggest hole for RIM to fill. In a nutshell, you can pair BlackBerry with the PlayBook. The two devices connect via Bluetooth and applications are enabled. If you have a BlackBerry then this is a nice feature. If not, you're wondering why there isn't a native email, calendar and contact app. For the enterprise---land of the BlackBerry---this bridge between devices may be handy. We 'll count Bridge as an asset.
PowerPoint presentations look good. I know a lot of tech's chattering class thinks PowerPoint is irrelevant. But in the real world, PowerPoint is a big deal in corporations. The PlayBook's HDMI cable allows you to hook it up to a projector or TV and deliver a presentation. The catch is that the PlayBook can show you the notes and thumbnails while the big screen shows the rest of the world your presentation. Most of the reviews have glossed over the PowerPoint punch. It matters a lot and makes the PlayBook a notable enterprise tool. RIM's PowerPoint prowess also highlights how Microsoft is snoozing on tablets. Shouldn't Microsoft be leading the tablet presentation charge?
Multitasking. The reviews generally had strong things to say about RIM's QNX operating system. Sure, the QNX borrows from HP's WebOS and Apple's iPad, but it multitasks well and that'll matter to the enterprise.
Security. While BlackBerry Bridge is a weakness---it's still baffling to me th at there are no native email clients---for IT types Bridge gives administrators security control. There's nothing on your PlayBook because all the corporate stuff is on the BlackBerry, which can be wiped.
Add it up and the PlayBook presents quite a divergence. Initial reviews may pan the device. Consumers may pan the device. The enterprise, however, gets just enough to stay interested and perhaps postpone those iPad deployments. If RIM can keep Android, HP and Apple away from its enterprise turf, the PlayBook is a success---even if it isn't a best seller at Best Buy.