If Republican presidential candidates can surge in popularity after being considered out of the game, why can't tablets? New updates to Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet raise the possibility that businesses and consumers will take another look at the device.
For starters, RIM has now confirmed that its new BB10 OS, which could be a make-or-break platform upgrade for its smartphones, will be coming to the PlayBook in the latter part of this year. The tablet currently uses QNX, the platform acquired by RIM and used as the basis for the BB10 OS, so the upgrade is not unexpected.
2.0 OS Update
The BB10 announcement comes on the heels of the download availability for the new BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 OS, which provides much-requested communication and productivity enhancements. Version 2.0 includes an integrated email client with a unified inbox, calendar and contacts integrated apps, an updated BlackBerry Bridge app, improved mobile productivity, and other new apps.
RIM is also making available an initial release of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion for supporting PlayBook tablets and BlackBerry smartphones within a company. The full Fusion is expected later this month.
Businesses may also take a second look at the PlayBook because of RIM's announcement earlier this week of a new Mini Keyboard accessory, which resembles similar third-party keyboards for other tablets. The full-QWERTY, Bluetooth keyboard includes a touchpad with gesture support, and a convertible case that holds the tablet as the display.
There also appears to a PlayBook in the works that will feature the fastest connectivity. The Federal Communications Commission approved Wednesday documents filed by RIM for a PlayBook model with 4G LTE or HSPA+ support, compatible with both Verizon's and AT&T's 4G networks. RIM had announced a year ago that these models would eventually become available. Currently, only Wi-Fi PlayBooks are on the market.
NFC, Kindle Fire
Rumors have also indicated that the PlayBook will receive near-field communication technology for in-store tap-and-buy capability, as well as a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor to update the current 1 GHz version.
While none of these upgrades and possible enhancements appear to offer an exciting product differentiation that would allow PlayBook to compete on a feature basis with the category leader, Apple's iPad, the PlayBook could become an attractive offering to potential buyers if all or some of these additions were made, the focus on business use continued, and the price remained relatively low.
Ross Rubin, executive director for Connected Intelligence at The NPD Group, said that "coming off the 2.0 update, which added key features," RIM is beginning to find an audience for the product.
He noted that it's "interesting" that the PlayBook's form factor is "close to the Kindle Fire and about the same price" of $199 for the 16GB version, and if it had been introduced at that low price when it launched, the story thus far might have been different.
Posted: 2012-03-15 @ 9:16pm PT
Actually, there are several features that differentiate the PlayBook from the iPad in a positive way. E.g., true multi-tasking, a superior front-facing camera (iPad's is still a weak VGA), the "Blackberry Bridge," where you can transfer material between phone & tablet, and also use the phone's QWERTY keys to type documents on the tablet, scroll through slides (e.g. during presentations), and a few more. I'm not saying the iPad is inferior, just that the PlayBook has an awful lot more going for it than the $199 sticker price.