Tablet War Begins: BlackBerry Playbook Takes on Apple iPad

Steve Jobs may rue his taunting statement Oct. 18, triumphantly declaring how the iPhone outsold the BlackBerry in the September quarter.

“It's going to be a challenge for {complink 4644|Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)} to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform after iOS and Android,” the Apple CEO said during the company's conference call to discuss fiscal fourth-quarter results. “With 300,000 apps on Apple's App Store, RIM has a high mountain ahead of them to climb.”

RIM, it seems, has found the perfect hiking boot to scale that proverbial mountain. Just as Apple muscled its way into the wireless phone market, RIM, the Canadian manufacturer of the BlackBerry messaging device, is in turn going after its Cupertino, Calif., rival in the fledgling but promising tablet computing market with the planned launch next year of the BlackBerry Playbook.

Smartphones ruled the market in 2010, but next year the stiffest competition in the consumer electronics market will be over a very flat, albeit similarly wireless and portable, device. Yes, you got it. Apple's reign over the tablet market will become tumultuous or even end as the challenge grows from Android-fueled products from a bunch of manufacturers. However, Indications are that RIM's Playbook poses the greatest challenge to the iPad, based on latest reviews (see links below).

The company has been actively demonstrating the BlackBerry Playbook in online video clips and on its Website ahead of launch, preferring a different approach from Apple's famous keep-it-close-to-the-vest secrecy style. It appears also that RIM might have provided prototypes of the Playbook to reviewers, helping the company generate huge interest even before the product hits retail outlets.

The video clips I have reviewed pinpoint exactly how the players expect to differentiate themselves. First, hardware look, feel, and size will be extremely important, but as everyone now knows, the software and graphical interface will play an even more decisive role. It adds up to some exciting times ahead for component suppliers, EMS providers, and especially customers.

Here are a few links to some video clips comparing the BlackBerry Playbook and the iPad. Let me know what you think:

  1. New BlackBerry Tablet – Rim Playbook (First look)
  2. Apple iPad vs. RIM Playbook: Tablet Wars
  3. Comparing the specs/features
  4. BlackBerry PlayBook and iPad Comparison: Web Fidelity

20 comments on “Tablet War Begins: BlackBerry Playbook Takes on Apple iPad

  1. Parser
    November 17, 2010

    Yes, RIM and other manufactures are filling up the new market segment for slate computers Apple has created. Each one will have its own advantages and problems. This will be good for the consumer and will improve Apple’s response to its users needs to stay competitive. Looking closely on RIM new Playbook first thing comes to my mind is who is the buyer for them. The name Playbook does not appeal to businesses. iPad does. It is a marketing strategy to choose a name out functions it can do and if they aim at general public or gamers they will miss vast professional market.


  2. itguyphil
    November 17, 2010

    I think RIM will have a huge mountain to climb. They are losing market share in the smartphone realm and now want to dive into tablets… Hmm. I think vendors should focus on what they do well an not just try to enter a market simply because others are capitalizing.

  3. bolaji ojo
    November 18, 2010

    Parser, People will not mind the “Playbook” name for the Blackberry device if it “plays” up to expectations. Remember there was much mirth about the name iPad when Apple launched the device. That has since died down. A greater challenge for the Blackberry Playbook now is living up to the hype. Failure to do so could be a killer.

  4. Hawk
    November 18, 2010

    The competition is good and certainly welcome. Consumers will have a wider range of choice and component vendors, contract manufacturers and others involved in the electronics supply chain would have other potential sales avenues. There is one other point to note, though. Apple's entrance into the wireless phone market did not shrink the sector. Rather, it expanded it because the company introduced a device like none in the market. The same thing is happening in the tablet PC market and I see further explosion in demand. People who may not want to buy the iPad now have a potentially viable alternative.

  5. Anna Young
    November 18, 2010

    Hawk, As an avid user of the Blackberry, I have been seriously eyeing competing devices that have better graphics and user interfaces. I like the iPhone's slide and swing capabilities but I also don't particularly want to be tied to Apple. The entrance of the iPad seriously undermined my commitment to the Blackberry and possibly there are others who share this feeling. The Blackberry Playbook may help RIM by stemming the migration of customers away from its regular Blackberry and give them something to look forward to. It also will help the company attract new customers, especially non-corporate messaging services users.

  6. DataCrunch
    November 18, 2010

    This couldn’t have happened fast enough for BlackBerry as the iPad gains momentum for business users.  The one advantage BlackBerry will have (for now) is that businesses that are already entrenched with the BlackBerry BES with all their security and corporate policies (many of which are already audited) in place, their new tablet will be fully compliant, making it a no brainer for existing BES users.  The one thing that BlackBerry did not want to happen is because lack of a tablet, invite another “smart” device into the enterprise.  BlackBerry will have to build up its developer community and have apps available on its app store extremely fast as the iPad has a tremendous head start here.  Remember it was the lack of apps and not appealing to business users that almost destroyed Apple years ago, even though many will argue that they had the better PC, hence their loyal following.

    The real threats to the iPad and the PlayBook may come from the Android tablets that will be arriving in full force (Samsung Galaxy Tab), followed by new tablets with the Microsoft OS.  Android has huge momentum and are adding apps exponentially to the Android Market due to its more open development and deployment process.

    In the end it will be the devices with the most useful apps that will rule the day, not the device itself.

      The introduction of the PlayBook provides more options which in the end is better for the consumer, but the lack of compatibility among these devices will make it confusing too.

  7. bolaji ojo
    November 18, 2010

    Dave, Apple says 300,000 applications have been developed for its iPhone/iPad operating system and the Android folks are racing to catch up. I've wondered about the relevance of these figures to the average enterprise user you mentioned. Do I really want to sort out which of several hundred thousand Apps I can use or do I want to pick a handful, perhaps 10 to 15?

    What is the utility to the enterprise or even the consumer market of 300,000 Apps? Many of these may simply be junk. Winnowed down, how many of these are really relevant to most users? RIM may be starting with zero Apps for the Blackberry Playbook but this may not be the huge drawback competitors think it is. What do you think?

  8. DataCrunch
    November 18, 2010

    Hi Bolaji, I tend to agree to some extent as not appealing to the business user is what hurt the adoption of the Apple PC.  I agree that a clutter of useless apps is not beneficial.  But I envision that people who are buying tablets, although may be saying that they are for business purposes, so that they can expense it, will also be looking for a device to be used in their personal lives as well.  For people who already want to get email and quick updates, they already have smart phones for that and for people who need to run more robust or complex applications already have laptops for that.  So for a market like the tablet, I think it will be important that the user experience is just not purely used for a handful or a dozen business apps, but will be used for personal use as well.  Probably used with a business app running in the foreground and some entertainment/social apps running in the background or vice versa. 

    So I do believe the availability of apps will play a major role in the decision making process and overall adoption rates.    

  9. elctrnx_lyf
    November 18, 2010

    First point is that Blackberry making a tablet is definitely a smart move. You can't just stuck with a single product line like smart phones since the gap between the smart phones and laptop is now a days filled by the tablets. Regarding the sales initially there will some good sales keeping in mind of the enterprise users and many regular buyers. But later it is very important for blackberry to produce few killer apps which can fuel huge sales.

  10. AnalyzeThis
    November 18, 2010

    I think the app market for a device like this will be completely, completely different than the Apple App Store: yes, they do have 300k+ applications, but as mentioned below, how many of them are really relevant to the enterprise? The answer is “not many.”

    So on a device like that, the number of applications a user would need should be fairly minimal. The device should be able to handle most needs natively, without the need for third-party applications. So the number of apps needed for specialized activity should be kept to a minimum, both for efficiency and security-related reasons.

    The Apple App Store is great for consumers. It has plenty of games and things to keep you entertained. But obviously if I'm going to invest in a RIM product for my enterprise, I am not interested in providing entertainment to my employees: I need to provide productivity, performance, security, and efficiency. I'm a big fan of what RIM is doing with BES, so it is near certain that I will at least evaluate Playbook at some port.

  11. Mydesign
    November 19, 2010

        When we are looking in user point of view, majority of them are searching by feature wise only. Only a minimal number of peoples are looking for branded gadgets. Now a day almost all gadget manufactures are providing free downloadable application either through their own portal or through third party portals. Recently I had seen in a portal, where “n” numbers of applications are down loadable, which is almost free and it can be downloaded to any gadget, having the minimal configurations. So in my opinion there is NO point to say either ipad or blackberry, lets think about the good ones.

  12. saranyatil
    November 21, 2010

    Definitely there will be a great welcome for BlackBerry playbook, humans mind expects new things to revolve around them frequently they always are looking forward for a change. it also deals with comfort of the apps most of them are so used to Apples MAC they might choose the iPad few may be willing to try something new hence they may procure Blackberry there is always great market for such kind of products.

  13. Parser
    November 21, 2010

    I sense that Apple store is getting more organized with every iTunes update to handle +300000 apps. For a long time iTunes has a business section. I am sure that there will be a pivotal mass where Apple will have to cleverly divide the business section as well. This will be hard to catch-up by any competition. RIM PlayBook would probably need a business software unit sponsored or owned by them to do that. Third party suppliers may not be sufficient. 

  14. kumar1863
    November 21, 2010

    Customers always look for portability, performance, and price. The Playbook appears to be render webpages faster than iPad and pages featuring flash content looks more attractive on the Playbook. Research in Motion (RIM) and Adobe Systems are collaborated to create a rich content to Playbook.  There will be a grand acceptance to Playbook over the iPad and this will stimulate the Apple to come with a remedy. 

  15. Parser
    November 21, 2010

    Yes, just a few weeks ago Apple allowed Adobe to use any developer software, which will allow Adobe to make an optimized Flash for iPhone/iPad. 

    Competition is good.

  16. Susan Fourtané
    November 22, 2010

    Hi, Bolaji 

    The Blackberry Playbook seems to have better specs and features and I imagine the price will also be attractive for those who consider the iPad a bit pricey. I am assuming that Apple will soon launch a second generation of iPad which obviously will be to compete with the Playbook. I see this tablet war just the same as the iPhone and SmartPhone war. 


  17. bolaji ojo
    November 22, 2010

    Susan, The latest information on the Playbook is that it will debut at less than $500, which prices it close to Apple's iPad, although the cheapest iPad retails for $499 and others can be even more expensive. The competition is certainly heating up and some corporate buyers are already pre-ordering Research in Motion's Playbook. See Rim's Rival to iPad Wins Fans as Clients Seek Security.

    The competition in the computer tablet market may be more savage than in the Smartphone sector but overall, Apple's chances of being dominant is being whittled down as rivals introduce competing devices. Where Apple has the edge is that it is the one others are chasing. By the time rivals finally get their acts together in the smartphone and computer tablet markets, the company will be adding a new item to its product offering.

  18. eemom
    November 22, 2010

    Competition is indeed key in this market.  It is important for Apple to know that RIM is on its heals introducing a competitive and maybe even a superior product to the next generation iPAD.  I have always viewed the tablet market as one for personal use rather than for business so I was surprised to read that corporations are preordering the Playbook.  I see the tablet having more of a space in personal and/or the education sector.

    With that being said, it will be interesting when the Playbook is released to see how the end user responds.  The Blackberry OS has not been a favorite in the mobile market so I'm not sure it will translate well to the tablet market.  Blackberry's acceptance in the business sector has been their infrastructor and security which was key to corporations.  This may not be of importance in the personal sector.  The variety of apps, however, will most likely drive and attract the personal user to the tablet.

    Apple's business practices have opened up the door for competition in the past and this will prove to be no exception.  When the iPhone was first released, it seamed that it was the gadget to have.  With its limited availability, it opened up the market for the Androids who have now enjoyed great success in the market.  Only time will tell how the industry's response to the iPAD will affect Apple's sales.


  19. Susan Fourtané
    November 25, 2010

    Hi, Bolaji 

    It's definitely going to be interesting to see how this war of the tablets develop in a couple of months when the Playbook is out in the market. If there is not a real difference in price I wonder what is going to be the fundamental factor for decision making. Maybe a time has come when smart phones and tablets share the market with Apple. Maybe Apple finally lower the prices in order to keep its reign. Only time will tell. 


  20. Ms. Daisy
    November 27, 2010

    Granted that consumers look for portability, performance, and price. It appears the Playbook would have added performance qualities over iPad. Is this the begining of Research in Motion giving Apple the run for its money?

    My hope is that this competition will not only increase efficiency, but drive down the price. 

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