New BlackBerry PlayBook--don't hold your breath
BlackBerry may still be interested in producing a follow-up to its doomed BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, but it's not a priority right now.
Speaking to Australia's Herald Sun, CEO Thorsten Heins said the company was still figuring out how a BlackBerry tablet might work. “How can we take this to the next stage and not just be another tablet or another design of a tablet? How can we really add value?" Heins said.
He explained that if BlackBerry launched another tablet, it would have to be designed around a particular business or consumer service, and not just hardware for its own sake. Tablets are a tough business, Heins noted, and only “one company, kudos to them,” has been highly successful. (Heins avoided mentioning Apple by name.)
Although it seems obvious that BlackBerry would shy away from another tablet after the disaster that was the BlackBerry PlayBook, product manager Mike Al Mefleh was recently quoted as saying there would be a new PlayBook this year. Another executive, Sarim Aziz, reportedly said last month to expect a new tablet in 2013, but BlackBerry claims that Aziz was misquoted.
As DigitalTrends has noted, this could be a sign of confusion within the company about what to do on the tablet front. Or, Heins could just play coy, and perhaps BlackBerry has already figured out how to launch a tablet that stands out.
No more mistakes needed
In any case, BlackBerry is right to move cautiously. The original PlayBook was rushed to market, and it showed. The lack of apps—including basic ones like e-mail and calendar—and buggy software made the PlayBook impossible to recommend at its $500 starting price.
Eventually, retailers slashed prices to $300 and up, but by then RIM faced new competition from less expensive tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire, which had more apps and content to choose from and a lower price of $200.
Since then, the cheap tablet market has blossomed, with Google's Nexus 7, Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets, and Apple's iPad Mini joining the fray. While the PlayBook was once novel for its 7-inch display, a follow-up would have a harder time standing out now, even with the newly-polished BlackBerry 10 operating system.
There may be room for BlackBerry to create an enterprise-centric tablet but, even then, the company faces competition from Windows 8 and from Samsung Knox, an enterprise security service coming to Galaxy phones and tablets. As Heins said, the company will need to think long and hard about how such a tablet can succeed.