RIM Calls an Audible: Will the Playbook 2.0 Get Them Back in the Game?
The BlackBerry Playbook OS is finally receiving an update that will help RIM level the playing field against Apple and Android tablets. The update largely addresses the shortcomings of the initial device, which was criticized for the absence of native email, the limited number of available applications and inadequate stand alone functionality. The Playbook 2.0 OS, however, will put RIM back on offense and is an important incremental step towards the full BBX migration that will unify the ecosystem for all Blackberry devices. With RIM’s strong footprint in the enterprise sector and the Playbook’s competitive price point, BlackBerry has the potential to garner interest from users who are looking for a device that offers similar features and functionality of Android and Apple tablets, but with added enterprise support.
One of the most pressing issues with the original Playbook was the limited number of apps available for the QNX operating system. Although the device is robust and the operating system worked well, it was not capable of leveraging any existing BlackBerry phone apps, and fell extremely short of rivaling Android or Apple. However, the latest update offers native emulated support for Android applications, making one of their biggest competitors also one of their biggest allies. Although support is not 100 percent, this feature is expected to continue to expand and be refined as an integral capability of the operating system. RIM estimates 65 percent of the 250,000+ Android Market apps will be fully compatible with PlayBook OS 2.0 & BlackBerry10.
Another important issue with the original Playbook OS, was its reliance on other Blackberry devices; resulting in a tablet that was deficient in the hands of users who had no BlackBerry smartphone to control the Playbook’s email functionality. Fortunately, the latest revision of the operating system includes a far more robust native email platform which includes new features, such as a unified inbox to simplify the management of personal and work accounts. Moreover, users can multi-task within email allowing them to reference one email while they compose another. Through this new email platform, RIM has done more than merely add features. This update allows the device to more adequately address the needs of users who own devices outside of the BlackBerry ecosystem. Thus, the Playbook is now able to compete for the same end-users that Apple and Google compete for, while retaining their inherent competitive edge in the enterprise market.
Just as important as the upgraded OS capabilities is the way RIM is deploying the new operating system. Android OS updates are often used to pressure customers to buy new hardware. RIM, however, will be releasing its new OS for the original Playbook device. This commitment to existing customers is on par with Apple, and serves as a significant differentiating factor against the many Android devices (which are often considered old less than six months after their release). If RIM continues to improve its devices, while supporting all relevant hardware, the company may begin to attract frustrated Android users who will appreciate an ecosystem that does not cycle through devices every six months.