| | 12-08-2012, 05:19 AM Thread Author #1
What the PlayBook needs to thrive
Hello all, I've had my PlayBook for a few weeks now and really enjoy it. The PlayBook has proved to me that the tablet is here to stay and that I will be buying more tablets (probably iOS and Android for the rest of my (young) family within a year).
That said, even though I think the tablet is here to stay and I really like the PlayBook, I'm not convinced that the BlackBerry PlayBook will survive . BlackBerry has made many missteps in trying to get the PlayBook off the ground and they don't seem to be scrambling to fix them. I don't think it's too late for them to avoid having to kill the PlayBook but they will have to act fast.
So, here goes. The following are what I see limiting PlayBook's appeal to a broad audience and potentially signing its death warrant:
1. Video Chat
The lack of cross platform video chat is killing the reviews. It's one of the most common complaints and is one that is relatively easily fixed by RIM!
RIM has its own video chat which (supposedly) works quite well. They have the infrastructure to handle video chat. Why not scale up the infrastructure? Then write and release clients for iOS, Android and Mac/PC/(Linux).
Scaling up can't be that expensive compared to the millions they've spent on the fire sales to sell PlayBooks and drop the price from $500 to $130 (on sale) in a bit over a year.
Apple (FaceTime) will never write a client for RIM since they don't even bother with Android/Windows . Microsoft (Skype) won't give a leg up to a smaller competitor for third place in the tablet wars so there won't be native PlayBook Skype video chat.
PS No, I don't consider a single paid video chat app to be a viable video chat option, especially when it has poor recent reviews in the PlayBook app store and downright atrocious ones in the iTunes store.
Solution: release BlackBerry video chat clients for iOS, Android and Mac/PC. Either that or negotiate a deal with Microsoft or Google to get access to Skype or Google chat.
2. App store
The app store looks nice but it's next to impossible to find something useful in it. Maybe that's because there's not much to find (my gut feeling) or the interface needs an overhaul (also the case).
With the iPhone I'm used to finding high quality free or free to try apps for just about anything I want. In PlayBook's app store I've struggled to find apps that appeal to me and make me even want to try them--for example, for astronomy apps I can find dozens of high quality free ones on the iPhone. For the PlayBook I've found one decent one and it's pay (the only app I've bought on the PlayBook so far).
RIM is working on bringing Android apps over to the PlayBook but they've got to do a better job of providing the emulation layer that allows the apps to run and access all PlayBook hardware. For example, if they could get Android Skype to run with full access to all the PlayBook hardware they wouldn't have to spend time worrying about licencing agreements.
Solution: Open up the PlayBook hardware to Android apps.
3. Tablet choice
I really like the form factor of the 7" PlayBook. It's sturdy. The rubber backing is useful. But, the PlayBook lacks a 10" cousin and is quite thick compared to 2012 (soon to be 2013) offerings. The iPad mini is only 100 g lighter (33% lighter) than the PlayBook but because of its engineering it feels like a featherweight beside the PlayBook. Apple also hit the nail on the head with the 8" screen. 7" is really a touch too small and 10" tablets are too heavy! I'm sure BlackBerry will come out with a 5" phone but they do need one or two more tablet offerings as well.
Solution: BlackBerry needs to come out with one or two more choices in the tablet market.
4. Radical solution
Turn the PlayBook into an Android device! They've got the brand name to go head-to-head with the likes of Samsung. They've got the engineering know-how to do it well. They've got the software to make their version of Android special. Now, the question is, are the margins in the Android universe too thin compared to remaining a proprietary bit player on the side lines?
5. Web reviews
Pay attention to them RIM. People buy or don't buy hardware on the basis of what they read on the web. If reviewers are complaining about video chat. FIX IT. Swallow your pride and open up BlackBerry video chat to other OSes FOR FREE! If people are complaining about a lack of apps. FIX THAT TOO. (Ok, granted, they are working on that one at least).
Overall benefits to BlackBerry
They are NOT iOS and are NOT Android. This means they can do their own thing. iOS is hampered somewhat by its reputation as a consumer OS (though, they're snagging some pretty high value business and gov't contracts away from BlackBerry). Android is hampered by the million and one manufacturers which means that an ASUS and an Acer and a Samsung, though similar are not the same.
RIM has a reputation for security. They can build on that but they can't build if they've become such a niche player if their ONLY shtick is security. Apple and Android can very easily catch up and overtake RIM on security (both are *nix-based operating systems) while working from MUCH larger installed user bases.
RIM is not out by a long shot. Their mobile phone market share in the developing world is big but for how much longer? In North America they were out competed in only five years. Apple decimated their market share by building the market for smart phones. Apple was able to charge $500 for MILLIONS of phones while BB struggled to charge even a fraction of that for far fewer phones.
RIM never owned the tablet market so there wasn't anything to lose but they haven't done enough yet to gain traction. They need to offer people a reason to buy their hardware over that of their competitors. They cannot compete on price alone because ASUS will figure out a way to sell a $100 7" tablet within two years which will destroy the niche that the PlayBook has now adopted.
I bought the PlayBook because it was CHEAP ($118 CAD) and I had a very specific purpose in mind (watching videos from on-line courses and light web browsing).
Because of my very positive PlayBook experience I am now also in the market for a general purpose tablet and, though I really really really like the PlayBook I know that I'll be spend the big $$$s to buy an iPad for my wife. The only thing that could possibly change my mind is if the next incarnation of PlayBook's OS turns it into a device that "just works" and allows my toddler son to do video chat with the grandparents who run a Windows computer and have no interest in a BlackBerry tablet (and, I would never give them a PlayBook since it's too rough around the edges for them to use).
The PlayBook is a great piece of engineering and hardware but it's not enough without the software. Hopefully the next incarnation of the PlayBook OS will fix most, if not all of the deficits I identified above. If not, I think RIM will abandon the PlayBook and focus only on its phone market.