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4/19/2011
03:16 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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RIM's BlackBerry Bridge To Nowhere

The PlayBook tablet, a few weeks late and a few key features short, isn't market-ready.

There's a second way to connect: Wi-Fi sharing. Go into PlayBook settings, select "storage and sharing," turn on Wi-Fi sharing, set the device name in the Properties option, and away you go -- you can see it from any device on the same Wi-Fi network, and you can transfer files back and forth.

This, too, I couldn't get working. RIM provided a routine to make it work: I had to go into Mac Finder, choose "connect to server," and enter the Playbook's freakin' IP address (SMB://IP Address). It worked, of course, but this procedure is undocumented, and it shouldn't work this way. Even with instructions, this step wasn't trivial and didn't work the first time. I have asked RIM if this is the intended user experience, and I haven't received a response. Clearly, it isn't, but it signifies an unfinished product.

RIM says Destkop Manager is available for the PC, and the Mac version will be out in the summer. Hopefully, that software makes connecting much easier; I have yet to test it on a PC.

There's only one way to access your email and calendar with a PlayBook. You have to wirelessly tether the PlayBook to a BlackBerry via Bluetooth using the aforementioned Blackberry Bridge software. As late as 10 p.m. Pacific time on Monday, this Bridge software wasn't available. It was subsequently made available on Tuesday, but it wasn't available for my device -- a BlackBerry Torch running OS 6 on AT&T's service. When my colleague reached out to AT&T, a spokesman said the carrier was still testing the software to ensure it would perform properly, indicating that it had only recently received it from RIM. Crackberry made a download of the software available, and I've been using it for a couple of hours; it works, though there's a performance lag -- noticeable, but workable.

After such a long wait, and 20 days past RIM's promised delivery date (first quarter, the company had said), this is all, simply, NOT ACCEPTABLE. In the first place, the Bridge concept is flawed. Others have said it, but let's state it even stronger: Having to own a BlackBerry in order to get email (unless you're using Yahoo mail, Gmail, or Web versions of Outlook) limits the field. Requiring those with BlackBerry devices to carry both their smartphone and the PlayBook is also ludicrous.

To claim, as RIM does, that this setup enhances security because the messaging is still going through the rock solid BlackBerry Enterprise Server may well be true, but it should be just as feasible to get the PlayBook to activate via BES (and to receive push messaging this way, and securely as well). Pardon my sarcasm, but if this is a "feature," why will the PlayBook get email and other messaging apps later this year, as RIM has stated? If it's not broken, why the fix?

RIM would have been blasted if it had delayed the PlayBook further. Better blasted by the press than shunned by customers.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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