Editorial: A Tale of Two Tablets

BlackBerry PlayBook Editorial: A Tale of Two Tablets

It’s PB-Day +2 and business wire is quite silent this morning. The speculations have been exhausted. The attack on your local retail stores, probably never happened. And you’re probably reading this on your laptop because you haven’t purchased a PlayBook yet. Not saying you won’t, but you’re probably going to wait it out a while longer. Until all the bugs are gone, or maybe until you can afford it. That’s my situation at least.

RIM has sold approximately 45,000 PlayBooks on opening day and I think that’s a really strong showing, but not strong enough. BlackBerry fans everywhere are weathering the storm. Disappointing as it may seem…I took this opportunity to do a little write up on how the iPad and PlayBook stack up in terms of reviews, analysis, and actual specifications.



My Major Gripe About the PlayBook

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/BestBuy/status/60674753781964802"]

Reglardless of what you may have seen or heard, it has seen it’s fair share of attention. From The Ellen Show to JLo to a Jimmy Kimmel promotion via @BestBuy on Twitter…and Conan even got to play with it on TBS. We’ve seen some pretty diverse persona marketing, but I have failed to witness one thing: a presence. Launch day came and went and it really couldn’t have been bigger for the BlackBerry community, but aside from those 400 fans that received a free BlackBerry PlayBook on The Ellen Show, I don’t think anyone outside of the BlackBerry community even knew it was out yet.

Well, that’s not entirely true, but you know what I mean. So to put things in some kind of muddled perspective, let’s take a trip Back to the Future.

The Year – Twenty Thousand and Ten. The Month – April. Day – 3.

Yes, a date most of you will recall almost automatically. The day the original iPad is released. Reviewers, overcome with glee. It’s like Christmas in July April. So let’s take a step back and look at some of the rave reviews that were awarded to the iPad:

The Journal’s Walt Mossberg called it “sleek,” “beautiful” and “a pleasure to use.”

David Pogue of the New York Times says “The iPad is so fast and light, the multi-touch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget.”

The iPad is described as “a winner” in the USA Today review by Edward C. Baig, who adds that “Apple has pretty much nailed it.”

And Tim Gideon at PC Magazine, who has the most in-depth review currently available, calls it “gorgeous,” “slim” and “beautiful.”

An aside here that I feel it is necessary to note: Upon Gideon’s conclusion of the review he mentions the following:

Cons: Lacks Flash support. No camera or video recorder. No multitasking capability. Cover Flow is missing from the iPod app. Doesn’t ship with a case. Earbuds aren’t included.

Bottom Line: A difficult-to-pinpoint target customer and a few pesky omissions are overshadowed by the excellent overall experience you get with Apple’s iPad. And it sets the bar high for competing products in this nascent Internet tablet category.

So what did the iPad2 change?

Moving right along…

Stephen Fry, writing for Time, explains “I had been prepared for a smooth feel, for a bright screen and the ‘immersive’ experience everyone had promised. I was not prepared, though, for how instant the relationship I formed with the device would be.”

Seems like there was more than browsing going on there, if you know what I mean. Ok, enough lewd allusion, let’s make sense of all of this in terms of today. We have got the iPad/iPad 2, the PlayBook, the Xoom, and well…that’s about all I consider viable competition (even listing the Xoom is stretching the believable truth).

 

So let’s take a look at some of the negativity surrounding the BlackBerry PlayBook

- and let’s throw some name(s) on the chopping block.

 

new york times tech columnist david pogue Editorial: A Tale of Two TabletsDavid Pogue – my mortal enemy, Apple fanboy, and punch advocate – thinks that he is the coolest thing to happen to the blog world since spoken word. Let’s summarize his review:

  • 2011 Year of the iPad Clone

I guess he and his Overlord Jobs were right, the iPad2 was released

  • He claims there are 85 tablets being released this year

I’m starting to think this guy never learned to count. Although, Autism isn’t funny, he’s trying to learn using his iPad 2. Let’s go easy on the little guy. There are 110 confirmed tablets, most of which won’t see the retail market or get cancelled pre-production.

  • Calls the 0.9lb PlayBook “solid heft” and calls the 1.33lb iPad 2 “light”
  • Claims the PlayBook borrowed OS design from Palm and Apple

I am also starting to think this guy is new to the tech world. Since when was using common, streamlined device designs “borrowing”.

  • Not every app has an app toolbar

I’d pay money to see your futile swiping across the tablet because you just don’t know how to use anything that’s not an iPad.

Then goes back to claim Apple has something similar to HDMI out. I’ve never seen them boasting about it – oh yea – that’s because “There’s an app for that.” Pathetic.

  • Realizes there are no email, calendar, apps
  • Realizes there are no apps on his review unit
  • States RIM said there were 3,000 apps, but not for him

That’s the downside of building an entirely new operating system David Pogue. In one year, not everything will be there since they didn’t just port a BlackBerry phone OS onto the tablet. Excellence takes time.

Hate Much?

That’s enough out of this bloated, self-proclaimed techie.

Adam Hartung 746113 Editorial: A Tale of Two TabletsAdam Hardtung – Another really clueless tech writer. The major disconnect here is the fact that he likes referencing outdated statistics as argument for his opinion. Look at this guy. His face screams “I love Apple!”

That ‘stach, needs to go buddy. He cites the following websites…From 2010.

Both, before the PlayBook was even seen in public.

But this one takes the cake…and I’m sure Hartung enjoyed eating said cake.

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/adam_hartung/status/60838940478943232"]

So curiously, while driving home yesterday, I clicked the link and to my surprise:

blackberry playbook chart Editorial: A Tale of Two Tablets

So I thought about this for a while…I thought and I thought. But something didn’t add up. I mean the statistics were there, but something doesn’t make sense…Oh right, Windows is #2. Of course! You mean to tell me with zero Windows tablets successfully launching into market or enterprise, CIOs want to deploy this solution.

I mean don’t get me wrong, I know most servers in the US are Windows based (roughly 70%), but asking CIOs to answer this survey when the PlayBook Tablet OS hadn’t even been fully developed, and both Windows 7 and iOS have been around for years that’s pretty unfair. Notice the text at the bottom of that chart…so what Windows 7 option were CIOs considering on a tablet because it doesn’t run well on tablets and never will. Oh Microsoft

Jay Yarow claims that “Consumers are unlikely to want a tablet that doesn’t have the most basic applications, and is still pretty buggy compared to the iPad, so that market is pretty much lost for RIM.”

Last time I checked 3,000 apps were more than enough, especially with Bridge apps coming to the tablet as native apps in under 2 months. All these accusations seem a bit hasty, especially when most companies in the world deploy a BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage their employee BlackBerry phones and can easily use a PlayBook without having to shift their entire corporate technology infrastructure.

I don’t think these writers took the time to research technology. Take a look back at some negatives the iPad received and you tell me. A quick Google search yielded this:

Gizmodo - 8 Things That Suck About the iPad

PCWorld – Apple iPad Reviews: The Critics Weigh In

The Inquisitr - iPad versus Stone: a handy comparison

WSJ Market Watch – Hello, giant iPod Touch

And the iPad 2

Yahoo News – First iPad 2 reviews: “Splendid” and “unbelievably thin,” but with “really bad” cameras

Note Walt Mossberg’s status as “gets first crack at Apple’s latest toys

Wired – Just How Bad is the Camera?

Daring Fireball – iPad 2 Review

Notice he enjoys the 512MB RAM upgrade. First Gen PlayBook has double that.

So let’s take a look at how the Tale of Two Tablets unfolds

First off, it’s important to note, once I actually thumbed through the mentioned reviews (and multiple other various reviews) I have to say one thing that stood out was how each and every reviewer almost opened up with the line “It’s sleek, fast, and light.” I won’t argue the former points, but light? Maybe in comparison to 2010′s laptop world, Apple was not the first to make a tablet computer, admittedly it might have been lighter, but there were surely enough netbooks to compete for that title.

Neglecting the netbook argument, which in most cases is always never acknowledged as if netbooks never even existed, the original iPad weighed in at 1.5 lbs. The iPad 2 weighs in at 1.33 lbs. According to Apple – that’s 15% lighter! But I checked their math, turns out that’s only 11%. Ok, a bit of a miscalculation but it’s Apple. Kudos for the marketing. TheMotorola Xoom, on the other hand, weighs in at 1.6lbs, a heavyweight amongst lightweights – for a 7″ tablet, that’s pretty bad terrible. The PlayBook, a mere 0.9 lbs, under weighing the competition and scoring plus points for putting raw power at under a pound.

Next - The Apps…Ohhh The Apps!

“On April 8th, Steve Jobs announced 3,500 iPad apps were available in the App Store during the iPhone OS 4.0 media preview event in Cupertino.  Approximately 3 weeks later, an additional 2,000 apps have been added, roughly 100 new apps a day.”

(via Pad Gadget)

Glorious release, yet with 3,500 apps, we sometimes forget how feeble the ecosystem for Apple really was at launch. Note – those numbers were a bit embellished as a lot of those apps were actually iPhone apps ported onto the iPad platform. Of course, it really picked up steam once developers saw the demand, and the market for these apps. Clearly, they were on to something. Now there are over 65,000 apps in the Apple App Store, a bit over a year later and on top of that Apple has worked an emulator into their iPad which allows the user to use their iPhone apps on their iPad – at iPhone resolution (960×640). Compared to the iPad resolution (1024×768), that’s not much of an experience.

The Xoom…Ok, we’ll breeze by this tablet with roughly 35 apps at launch and ramping up to about 75-100 now…no one really knows how many because I doubt anyone owns this thing. The PlayBook launched with roughly 3,000 apps according to interviews conducted with both Co-CEOs. That’s almost the exact same amount of apps the iPad had at launch, with Android support coming in 2-3 months, they’ll get close to Apple’s running total and fast.

Well what about E-mail and File Management?

To this very day, I am still in the dark about Apple’s alleged file management system for the iPad. I am led to believe it is almost non-existent, or minimum at best. E-mail, well that’s another story. Apple still doesn’t let you save PDFs or certain rich text files – instead, they open in the body of the email. Some picture extensions have also been known to not save properly or open using the iPad 2. The PlayBook, full file browser, can browse files on your phone while bridged, can attach files via email and using web browser, managesPDFs, WordPowerPoint, and Excel files using native apps.

While there are no native e-mail applications for the PlayBook as of yet, support will be released. I think this killed RIM right off the bat, it’s like showing your bluff on the final table in Vegas! RIM screwed the pooch and they paid dearly with poor reviews, lack luster consumer appeal. To top it all off BlackBerry Messenger – the app everyone had been looking to, hoping it would salvage this disconnect…not supported yet. Not only that, but AT&T apparently didn’t get the memo that the PlayBook was coming out, and didn’t approve use of BlackBerry Bridge on it’s network! My, Oh My!

One thing that Apple does is provide quality something nothing something. Whether it works or not is apparently not as important as having it on there to begin with. Aside from copy & paste, Apple was pretty on top of a lot of “basic” features – but then again, their entire iOS is one big very “basic” feature. It offers nothing special outside of the fact that it works and older people can understand how to use it. Baby Boomers love Apple…motor skills impaired due to partying too hard…they lose, Apple wins.

How does it browse?

You really can’t even compare the two experiences. I’ve used the iPad and it’s really quite impressive. But pit it against the PlayBook browsing experience, I had to turn back to the iPad and just ask it “Why?!” Apple isn’t big on amenities and baking usefulness into their native operating system – that’s why they have so many apps (most of which are either redundant or useless). One thing they did get right is keeping the experience consistent and maybe with the new operating system, the BlackBerry can also become a symbol of consistency. This is one major gripe I’ve had with Android over the past year or so – different equipment, manufacturers, and no consistency between the different versions – doesn’t feel very complete – that’s kind of the feeling I got with the Xoom; a really incomplete, over-sized smartphone. Yea it’s fast, but that only gets you so far now-a-days.

Attachment handling is completely handled through the BlackBerry browser on the PlayBook. That is one feature I absolutely love. Although it doesn’t always work the way you’d like, it is there and I am sure it will eventually. Remember – we said, as long as it’s there, you can’t gripe about it! Right Apple? Xoom, iPad – browser is pretty pathetic.

Native App Much?

I’ve been closely following the M & A (mergers and acquisitions) side of RIM since before the Torch was released and all I can say is that something big is going to happen in terms of in-house app development. Already the PlayBook has seen native Office apps, native weather, native news, podcasts, music store (finally catching up to Apple), etc, etc,.

The core apps for Apple haven’t seen much change, let alone improvement. They are rapidly exhausting their current ecosystem and really need to start looking for a way to package everything an Apple user needs into one bundle. But do they really? I mean they have a very full App Store with tons of great apps. Oh right, you have to pay for basic productivity apps. That’s…well, unfortunate.

Does the Xoom even have native apps? Last I checked you had to download a calendar app from the app store – it was one of the 5/10 50 apps available at launch. I really hope they fix that (no I don’t).

When I drop $500-700 bucks on a tablet, I don’t want to have to pay for apps that I feelshould come on my tablet! Neither do I want a smart cover just because it’s “…something to smile about” according to Apple’s website. And oh, it’s only $40 bucks. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled after dropping $40 on a case. Maybe I’m alone on that one.

Conclusion

All-in-all, I am still taken aback by all the things I’ve read for this newborn tablet. It really doesn’t add up, and when you do take a step back from your loyalty (if you’re not too punch drunk) tell me if you really think your tablet is better because it probably isn’t.

So I leave you all with this…

By the way, magazine subscriptions absolutely tanked on the iPad – not even 8 months later. So what does the iPad have that the PlayBook doesn’t? It doesn’t come down to technical specs, features, apps, or even hardware, it all comes down to presence; aka marketing.

Stay Techy My Friends

 Editorial: A Tale of Two Tablets
Grew up in San Francisco, now live in Los Angeles. I am an Executive Manager at a heavy duty parts and repair company. I love technology - mostly all things BlackBerry related - and I enjoy sharing my opinions with people and helping to spread the good work of BlackBerry. You can contact me at anthony (at) blackberryempire (dot) com, find me on twitter @the_ruined, or catch me on BBM, PIN: 333D7B6B
 Editorial: A Tale of Two Tablets

Comments

  1. jbliv63 author says

    Excellent article and insight, thanks for sharing. I for one was surprised at the lack of concerted effort by RIM to properly launch the Playbook. Their marketing people should be fired. But I have been just as surprised at the silly responses from the media. It’s all hype these days, little substance. Thanks for the deep coverage, and a bit of sanity.

    • author says

      Thanks for reading guys! I appreciate the kind words :) It was a lot of research and referencing but I got it out there to do exactly that – take a moment of sanity away from all the hype.

  2. jbliv63 author says

    Anthony, nice work in not just taking RIM’s side of it. I said media, but I really meant the analysts. I can see the media, with the lines between personal blogging and journalism getting blurred, taking the fan-boy approach, but since when is growth, profit, and cash reserves a bad thing?

    • author says

      They’re overlooking the basics and skipping forward to the end of the book…it’s amazing how much power the media retains in swaying the opinions of mass consumerist markets i.e. the US. But what makes it worse is when a company actually tries to compete and is dismissed immediately just because they offer something new and different. It’s the inherent xenophobic nature or even pride of a certain breed of people that absolutely prohibits them from seeing good, better, and best…Unfortunately, RIM didn’t have such great timing, Apple made sure of that by bumping up the iPad 2 launch to beat out the PlayBook

  3. author says

    I finally read this after waiting on PlayBook updates. You’re right, big lack of presence. A lot of people even inside the bb realm were unaware a BlackBerry tablet had launched. Can you imagine the people on the outside? Awesome read.

  4. eileensiow author says

    Agree on the marketing presence. Apple has it, RIM doesn’t.

    But still, RIM doesnt need guerilla marketing. Blackberry phones didn’t have much marketing as Apple and bb phones still made it. i believe their playbook will be very successful in the long run. Slow & steady wins the race mate! :)

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