The BlackBerry PlayBook is available for pre-order, and will be on the street in a matter of weeks. I am not sure the RIM tablet will see much consumer success, but then consumers have never been RIM's primary market. Consumer tablets aside, the PlayBook has some unique features that make it an ideal tablet from a business or IT admin perspective.
From a consumer perspective, the parasitic, or symbiotic relationship between the PlayBook and the BlackBerry smartphone is a handicap. While the RIM BlackBerry OS is a leading smartphone platform, it is driven primarily by business adoption, while iOS and Android have achieved their market share on their respective strengths as a consumer smartphone platform. For businesses, though, that connection between the BlackBerry smartphone and the PlayBook tablet presents some innovative advantages over rival tablets.
With the Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, and other tablets, the addition of a new mobile computing device means more work for the IT admin. Policies must be implemented and maintained, and data must be protected on both mobile platforms. The separate devices also introduce greater complexity when it comes to keeping information synced between the desktop PC, the smartphone, and the tablet.
RIM provides IT admins with an advanced tethering system, though, with unique benefits for managing the tablets, keeping information in sync, and protecting data. For example, the IT admin can configure PlayBook tethering policies to automatically terminate the tethering connection once the PlayBook exceeds a specified range from its connected BlackBerry smartphone. Even better, once the connection is terminated, no data from the BlackBerry phone will remain on the PlayBook--so the IT admin only has to worry about keeping data synced and protected on the smartphone.
This arrangement also has benefits for businesses that want a team or department to share a tablet among multiple users. Because the BES data on the PlayBook tablet is tied to the BlackBerry smartphone in this scenario, once the tethering connection is terminated the PlayBook is a clean slate. It can be handed off to a co-worker and tethered to their BlackBerry smartphone without any risk of compromising personal information between the two.
The integration with BES, and with the BlackBerry culture that is already a pervasive element of mobile communications for so many businesses makes the BlackBerry PlayBook a compelling tablet choice. The added ability to take advantage of the vast library of Android apps adds value as well.
If RIM had to compete strictly in the consumer market, I would call the PlayBook virtually dead on arrival compared with tablets like the iPad 2 and Xoom. But, the BlackBerry culture is engrained in the corporate world, and gives RIM a semi-captive audience to target the PlayBook tablet at. And, for that market, the PlayBook has some unique and innovative features that set the tablet apart from the competition.
For more on why I feel the PlayBook is not a good tablet choice for consumers, read Four Reasons to Avoid the BlackBerry PlayBook