Why the BB PlayBook shouldn't launch without native apps

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| March 29, 2011

After some rumors and speculation, Research In Motion recently revealed that their first tablet device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, would be launching in the United States on the Sprint network on April 19th. The device, which isn’t the most powerful tablet coming to the market sooner than later, isn’t the weakling amongst the pack, either, and should be on the radar for anyone who isn’t ready to pick up a tablet that’s powered by Apple’s or Google’s mobile OS. But, there’s a few things keeping the PlayBook out of the limelight for the general consumer: the enterprise positioning, and a strange application situation. But, what’s also troubling is the fact that the PlayBook isn’t launching with some seemingly crucial, if not “standard” applications.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet device, featuring a brand new mobile operating system called QNX Software, and featuring a 1GHz dual-core processor under the hood. There’s the front-facing camera with a 3MP resolution, and a camera on the back with a 5MP resolution. Like I said before, the PlayBook won’t be taking the crown for most powerful tablet, but it isn’t trailing behind, either. But that doesn’t mean it should launch right now, or on April 19th considering what’s going on.

There’s been some speculation and back-and-forth regarding the native application situation on the PlayBook. The confusion came in the fact that no one was getting a straight answer as to whether or not native applications for the calendar, contacts, or email would be on the device at launch. And, sure enough, it’s been confirmed that the PlayBook will not be launching with those aforementioned native applications on board. However, RIM knows that they’re needed, so they will be added later in a software update.

I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough. These aren’t apps that people won’t be using. And, let’s be straight forward here: RIM is launching an enterprise tablet device that’s missing three integral applications. But, there’s a workaround: just tether your PlayBook to your BlackBerry smartphone, and you’ll have quick access to those apps. Let me just say it again: that’s not good enough. It doesn’t make any sense. Even if you just included the email application out of the box, that’s at least a start. Who isn’t going to try and access their email on the PlayBook? Is RIM really wanting only people with BlackBerry smartphones to buy the PlayBook? That’s certainly an interesting move, to say the least.

And sure, you can check your email through the Browser application, but that just makes it look like RIM isn’t trying. Cutting corners, maybe. Shipping a tablet that isn’t ready in one way, may mean that the tablet isn’t ready in other areas, either. And for those early adopters, that’s not something that many of them would like to consider just under a month before the device’s launch.

The PlayBook’s lack of native applications out of the box seems lack a huge step backwards, even with so much possibility shoved into the 7-inch device. Will it be enough to slow sales? Probably not. But, I can envision plenty of customers who buy the tablet, take it out of the box, and then get pretty angry when they don’t find seemingly standard applications like the calendar or email available to use right out of the gate.

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