Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Knowledge, Hype and Opinion, the Blackberry Playbook

The Summary, in My (Humble) Opinion:
  • I have one. And I bought an additional 2 Blackberry Playbooks for my daughter and son.
  • The new operating software (OS2.0) makes the Blackberry Playbook a powerful, functional tablet.
  • I have found it a useful business tool (I am a consultant at lots of conferences and meetings).
  • At its current price point ($200-$300), the Playbook is a steal of a deal.
For Canadians, it's been with a bit of consternation that we have watched the reputation and stock price of Research in Motion decline through 2011. Regarded as Canada's flagship in high tech, RIM's decline from the "must-have" technology has been hard to watch. And when their tablet came out in 2011, the rush to proclaim the Playbook as half-baked was universal.

There are some lessons here. Much has been written about RIM's struggles to be innovative. But little has been written about the analysts doing the analysis. So as a new user of the Playbook and a technology watcher, here are some observations.

The Herd Mentality about New Technology and Gartner's Hype Cycle (2011):
Here's the rub. Tablets are just coming down off the peak of inflated expectations. What will tablets do? Everything a laptop can do, plus a camera, plus a game console, plus an e-book reader, plus a music player ... How about frying eggs as a griddle? And from the time that the Apple iPad broke the ground, the expectations are that every new entry will do marvelous new things. At the beginning of 2011, at the peak of the hype cycle, the Blackberry Playbook didn't move the yardsticks as technology reviewers expected (iPad3 by RIM). And then the piling on began.

As every engineer will tell you, simple takes work. Sometimes you get complicated at the start of technology. Hence the trough of disillusionment.

Now a year later, with a new version of the operating system, is the hype (or continuing derogatory commentary) about the Playbook justified? Here's my perspective. Note this my opinion but it comes out of a consultant who uses the tablet for business.

What works well on the Blackberry Playbook:
  • Documents to Go. Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be transferred to the Playbook and edited easily. And then transferred back to my laptop. File overwrites happen seamlessly.
  •  The keyboard. Easier to type on than my laptop's keyboard (or even the USB connected full-size keyboard I use every day). And word predictions speed up the typing. 
  • Web mail. Contacts. Calendar. Easy to get to. Easy to update. Actually more convenient to work on than laptop.
  • Video Chat. Some people think the Playbook should come with Skype. I don't use video in Skype because the service problems over my high speed cable connection. And even audio breaks up. But Video Chat over the same connection had smooth video and audio. 
  • File Manager lets me get to documents that were attached to emails. And then edit them on the Playbook.
  • Size is right. I can sit in a lecture room with their minuscule writing surfaces and take notes easily. I have stopped using my notepad binder for writing notes at meetings. The Playbook slides into an unobtrusive zipped binder (15 X20 cm) that I got years ago from a conference. I am not in a panic to leave it unattended.
  • Price Point is a No Brainer: Canadian prices are $200 to $300. A good USB 32GB storage drive costs $60. When a tablet gets over $500 I question whether the tablet offers enough to compete with a similarly priced notebook computer. The Playbook does enough of what I would expect of a decent laptop in situations outside the office and at a significantly lower price.
With WiFi everywhere, I usually can browse easily and if there is no WiFi, the Bridge connection to my Blackberry Phone means I carry on as usual.

I don't play games. I don't shoot photos or videos with my cell phone.I am a grandfather so I do carry photos and videos of my grandson on my Playbook. I have checked out the Apps store and regard 85% of the offerings as clutter. No, I do not need "Angry Birds" on my Playbook.

The Playbook lets me work in situations where a laptop would be awkward and a cell phone verbotem. And it cost me less than $300.

I am not comparing the Blackberry Playbook to other tablets. But I think right now most of the commentary about the Playbook and RIM constitutes negative hype (and herd mentality).

Simple takes work and the Blackberry Playbook got simpler.

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