Why BlackBerry 10 for the PlayBook is so Important


One subject at BlackBerry Live completely cold-shouldered was the availability of BlackBerry 10.(1 or 2) for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Matter of fact, when asked, CEO Thorsten Heins claims the tablet market is a tough business model and are still evaluating its PlayBook strategy.

Truth be told, the entire idea of a unified OS in BlackBerry 10 would work on multiple devices, so what’s the hold up? Differences aside, it’s logical to bring BlackBerry 10 to the PlayBook for a few good reasons.

One good reason why BlackBerry 10 for PlayBook is needed NOW is its latest devices; the Z10 and Q10 are hitting carriers with a reinvented and reengineered platform. The OS is stellar and the hardware in BlackBerry is best in class, always has been.

Remember now, the PlayBook is BlackBerry’s first mobile product to be sold through direct channels and distributors as opposed to cell phones which are mostly sold through a mobile carrier. Placing BlackBerry 10 on shelves without needing a multiyear contract to consumers and professionals is a good way to market its transition to the market. Buyers who try a BB10 PlayBook will experience what mobile computing is all about and the demand to duplicate that experience on a mobile device will increase – with potential new BlackBerry subscribers and resubcribers who were once on a BlackBerry device.

Since BlackBerry 10 is unified the BlackBerry and PlayBook can coexist further than the current Bridge app. Or, each device can be used as a standalone and perform each task, equal. The possibilities are endless and the future for mobile computing is bright given BlackBerry fulfills its initial promise for the BlackBerry 10 PlayBook update.

When dwelling on the holdup this remains on my mind.

  1. Carriers
  2. Profitability

Are carriers supportive of pushing the tablet? BlackBerry claims its carrier relationship is well but walk into any of the established mobile carriers in the states (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon/Sprint and the feeling is different.  Most will try to shove Android or iOS down your throat and right now BlackBerry is focusing on selling the Z10 and Q10 – imagine having to deal with trying to sell a tablet as well? Tablets are difficult to sell via a carrier, a BlackBerry tablet, much more difficult at this point in time. When looking outside of carriers consumers who have purchased a PlayBook with BB10 at a Best Buy or Wal-Mart won’t care what their local cell phone shop representative feeds them. The customer will walk in determined to have that mobile computing experience on a cell phone and will walk out with a new Q10 or Z10.

When thinking on the PlayBook strategy as a whole BlackBerry needs to make money. BlackBerry has a history of making money off its services and solutions such as BIS and BES. With the eliminations of BIS the cash intake shrinks. This is where BlackBerry is really going to rely on device sales for profit.

Mobile devices are priced different than tablets because the cellphone sells with a service whereas the tablet does not have to be sold with a service, wifi-only options are available such as the PlayBook. This is where BlackBerry can make some money with direct device sales and also use this strategy to market BlackBerry 10 to consumers without the obligation to lock into a contract.

Pricing structure needs to be ironed out first and foremost.  The PlayBook was a hard sell at around $500, which is in the range of an off contract BlackBerry device. Once discounts and specials hit PlayBook sales rose and the demand was there, especially during holiday seasons. It’s difficult to sell two separate devices with essentially the same software – BlackBerry 10.  In one hand you have a $500+ smartphone off contract or a $250 smartphone with a multiyear contract. In the other hand you have a PlayBook for around $300 with discounts through a direct channel like Best Buy, Wal-Mart or Staples.

See what I mean? The pricing structure needs to be addressed to where BlackBerry can make money with the PlayBook without compromising smartphone sales and quarterly earnings. Once the company is firm on its strategy and the pricing structure is resolved I believe we will see the PlayBook BlackBerry 10 update roll out to current owners and will see BlackBerry 10 PlayBooks on shelves being aggressively marketed.

The great thing about QNX is it allows BlackBerry to be flexible with its software so once we see BlackBerry 10 grow to near perfection I believe we will see it roll out to the tablet. Until then, we shall play the waiting game and can only hope BlackBerry will come out swinging with its updated, unified platform serving the consumer and enterprise market with mobile computing across multiple devices.