RIM Scraps Planned 10″ PlayBook Tablet: Why That’s Good for BlackBerry Users
Gadget geeks and CrackBerry addicts won't see a larger BlackBerry PlayBook tablet anytime soon, according to a recent report. But CIO.com's Al Sacco says that's actually a good thing, Here's why.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
News broke yesterday that Research In Motion (RIM) has ceased development of a 10-inch BlackBerry PlayBook tablet that would have been a more sizable sibling to the company’s currently available seven-inch PlayBook.
Rumors regarding a larger PlayBook have been circulating for months, and though RIM never officially announced such a product or even admitted that one was in the works, it was presumed by many BlackBerry watchers, myself included, that it would only be a matter of time before the bigger PlayBook was released.
But that’s not going to happen. At least not anytime soon, according to a report on BlackBerry news site, N4BB.com.
A trusted source last week also informed me that RIM had stopped working on the ten-inch PlayBook tablet. I held off reporting because I wanted to confirm the news with additional sources. But the switch in strategy sounded logical to me then, and even more so now when you consider the reasons stated by N4BB.
RIM decided to forego the ten-inch PlayBook so it could, first and foremost, focus the majority of its efforts on the next-generations of BlackBerry smartphones, according to the report, which RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has dubbed “superphones.” Secondly, the company is accelerating its efforts to get is first cellular, 4G PlayBook tablets onto store shelves.
Earlier this year, RIM announced a number of upcoming cellular PlayBook tablets, including LTE and HSPA+ versions, and Sprint even said it would start selling its cellular PlayBook this summer. Then, earlier this month, on an earnings call, RIM said it will miss those initial targets. But putting the 10-inch PlayBook on the back burner for now—or possibly forever—will presumably allow it to ship those cellular PlayBooks as fast as possible.
I genuinely believe this is the right move for RIM at this time.
To put it bluntly, RIM bungled its PlayBook tablet launch in spectacular fashion. The device was buggy, it shipped without native e-mail and PIM applications, and the tablet was not available with a cellular radio—it still isn’t. Though RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie promised native e-mail, calendar, and contacts, etc. for the PlayBook within 60 days of its U.S. launch, that time has come and gone with no such native apps in sight.
In other words, public perception of the PlayBook right now is mostly negative. RIM only shipped some 500,000 PlayBooks in the quarter following its release, and the company also recently cut its future PlayBook sales targets in half because it expects sales to soften further.
So releasing a brand new version of the PlayBook before it gets the first one right just seems like a very bad idea to me. RIM would be wise to “polish” the current PlayBook and fill in the major gaps, and then hopefully sway the current negative public opinion before releasing another version. (Anyone familiar with RIM’s similarly bungled Storm/Storm2 launches should understand my point here.)
The decision to end development of the ten-inch PlayBook is ultimately good news for BlackBerry smartphone users, because it means that they’ll see the lauded BlackBerry “superphones” sooner rather than later. In the fiscal Q1 earnings call earlier this month, RIM’s Lazaridis said the inability to get the next generation of BlackBerry smartphone quickly into the market was one of the main reasons the company is currently seeing drops in revenue and net income, and in turn, losing ground to rivals.
By focusing its efforts more firmly on the development of its BlackBerry 7 OS and the next handheld software version based on a foundation from QNX Systems—the BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet OS is also built on QNX—RIM should be able to get new devices into the hands of its customers much faster. And that would certainly be a good thing.
So, while it’s tough to see RIM scrap a project that it already no doubt spent a lot of time, energy and money on, and in a time when the company is already facing tough competition in the handheld space, I believe the decision to forget the ten-inch PlayBook for the time being is the right one for RIM and its BlackBerry customers.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.