RIM: "Playbook redefines what a tablet should do"

As RIM gears up for the launch of the Playbook tablet, all eyes are on pent-up demand in the enterprise.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

On Research in Motion's conference call with analysts to discuss third quarter earnings result, there was the obligatory comments about the quarter that just passed - but clearly, one of the biggest topics of interest centered around the upcoming launch of the Playbook tablet.

The company didn't offer many new details on the Playbook, other than to suggest that plans for a launch in the first quarter are still on track and that initial feedback from partners and "many key customers" has been positive.

One thing was clear, though. As important as the consumer market has been for some competitors in the smartphone and tablet space, as well as for RIM in some international markets, make no mistake: enterprise business is RIM's big target market.

On the call, co-CEO Jim Balsillie said:

We have real differentiation and real opportunities for the extension of the business. The pent-up interest in the playbook is really overwhelming.

Specifically, he noted carrier billing and value added services, suggesting that there are a "litany of things happening in that area for (the) playbook and smartphone over the year."

For RIM, the future isn't necessarily just about growth in new markets, it's new categories and new services. Balsillie said: "I think we're laying the pieces for sustaining growth for a really long long time."

As for interest among business customers, Balsillie said it was "uniformly strong... I can't think of one account that's not beating us down to get units," noting that the first shipments will be geared at enterprise customers because there's so much demand and interest. He suggested that there's so much interest that some customers are delaying their tablet-purchasing decisions in anticipation of Playbook.

Why so much interest? Being enterprise ready, including push technology, enterprise-grade architecture and tools, overall performance and reputation of being secure cannot be underestimated, he said.

"I think the Playbook redefines what a tablet should do," he said. "It sets the bar way higher on performance."

Specifically, the company is looking to be enterprise ready in areas such as secure VPN, document viewing and editing and enterprise apps that will be ready out of the box. Balsillie said:

I've talked to a lot of CIOs from Fortune 500 companies... The enterprise grade is the really big big thing... They have to be the keepers of the system integrity and I think we've got that figured out in the way we've implemented this.

Looking ahead, the company's revenue forecast for this quarter doesn't reflect anything Playbook-related, though there will be some Playbook-related operating expenses in Q4 as the company begins spending on launch preparation.

For RIM, which clearly comes across as bullish about the prospects of Playbook, the shift in business model is about grabbing position in a rapidly expanding space. He said:

This is not just competition between players in this space. It's expanding to do things you normally wouldn't do... Business models are changing and I think we'll have some pretty pleasant surprises in what we're doing in calendar year 2011.

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