BlackBerry - Playbook


September 2010

425 grams


The PlayBook was the first BlackBerry device to use the QNX operating system, the platform that would be used on future BlackBerry products and known as the BlackBerry 10 operating system. The company had been getting growing requests from its corporate customers to develop a BlackBerry with a large device. At the time, the company had already experimented with a number of projects such as a digital photo frame and e-book reader but these did not come to fruition. The device, which featured a seven-inch high definition screen, was designed to offer a high performance web browser, a camera and good sound quality. In principle this seemed like a good idea as consumer started to use wireless devices for media consumption, however the arrival of the Apple iPad in January 2010 set a bar that RIM was never going to be able to compete with. Unfortunately it also prompted RIM to rushed the PlayBook to market in less than six months with disastrous consequences. The most notable error was the omission of the BlackBerry email service on the PlayBook. Given the company was synonymous with reliable push email this was an alarming decision, but one made to ensure the PlayBook would be delivered to the market within the six month deadline set for its development. To get around this problem, the company created a solution called “BlackBerry Bridge” which allowed BlackBerry owners to wirelessly tether their devices to the PlayBook and sync their emails. Although this was an elegant solution to getting around the huge development effort to support dual accounts and update RIM’s email infrastructure it also meant that it limited to the addressable market for the PlayBook only to existing BlackBerry device owners. It was also a cumbersome way to manage the process which sometimes took several minutes, which was completely counter to the BlackBerry promise of instant email. Apps were offered on the PlayBook using Adobe’s AIR, but this was not popular with developers, particularly because Apple refused to support Adobe’s Flash platform because of earlier disputes between the two companies. On this basis, there was little incentive to developers to support the new BlackBerry device, given supporting Apple’s iPhone and iPad was far more lucrative. Furthermore, the Playbook did not support the legacy Java apps that had be designed for BlackBerry devices, so existing BlackBerry users could not access the apps they were already familiar with. The user interface on the PlayBook was designed by a small Swedish company called The Astonishing Tribe which was acquired by RIM in December 2010 ahead of the launch of the PlayBook in April 2011.