Review: BlackBerry PlayBook Not Ready For The Enterprise

RIM's PlayBook is a beautifully designed piece of technology, but lacks basic features available from every other tablet in the market.
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardown
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Slideshow: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Teardown
About the only really effective business tool available on the PlayBook out of the box is the browser. If your business runs a lot of browser-heavy apps, then perhaps they may work.


If you thought this PlayBook review was going well so far, here's the big but.

Upon taking the PlayBook out of its box, users first have to set up Wi-Fi access and check for system updates. The PlayBook found an updated version of the OS and downloaded it (437 MB) before installing the software and then rebooting. Total time between opening the box and actually being able to use the PlayBook--a minimum of 15 minutes. Not that big a deal. At least you don't have to connect it to a PC, first.

With so few applications available to me, I almost immediately took the PlayBook for a spin through the BlackBerry App World. I can't offer you a count of apps that are in there at launch (RIM claims 3,000), but the selection is unbelievably crappy. I think I recognized perhaps five titles out of the five or six score that I looked through.

What's missing? Basically everything. Look at the apps on your BlackBerry. Pretty much none of them are available. Essential ones, such as Facebook, Google Search (hell, Google *anything*), banking apps (at least from banks located in the U.S., where the PlayBook is initially available), business apps ... the list goes on and on. The PlayBook has a serious application problem, one that RIM needs to remedy ASAP.

Beyond the missing applications--the lack of which all but render the PlayBook nothing more than a Web browsing device with a decent camera--other basic functions are missing entirely.

For example, I wanted to load some media (music, photos, video) on the PlayBook. I connected the PlayBook to my Mac. The PlayBook told me drivers were being installed. Nothing happened. Then, the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software launched, and told me to update, which I did. Then I rebooted. Both machines. I connected them together with BDM running. Still nada. Using a few tricks from Fritz Nelson, I attempted to connect the PlayBook to my Mac via its IP address. Though my network preferences and the device both told me the PlayBook and laptop were connected, it simply didn't show up at all. That means I couldn't load any media whatsoever. This is about the most anti-user device I've ever encountered when it comes to an amazingly basic feature such as connecting it to a computer. How difficult is it to mount the PlayBook as a USB mass storage device? Apparently pretty damned difficult.


The PlayBook is obviously not finished. It lacks the most basic features available from every other tablet in the market. Sure, RIM says an update will fix everything in the coming months. I'll believe it when I see it. Anyone else remember the disaster that was the BlackBerry Storm? It took RIM and Verizon Wireless *six months* of updates to get it even halfway stable. With so many tablets that are simply better than the PlayBook, I can't imagine why anyone would stick it out and wait for RIM to deliver the promised features at some unknown time in the future.

If you're looking for a tablet *today* (whether for work or home use), then I highly recommend pretty much any other tablet you care to grab. The PlayBook isn't done, and it's definitely not ready for the enterprise.

That's not to say that the PlayBook is all bad. It certainly isn't. RIM has crafted a fine piece of hardware with a good screen and good battery life. Its small size makes it extremely portable, and the user interface is pleasing. The PlayBook will certainly improve over time (how can it not?). It may not be the best device possible today, but it might be one day.

What gives me real concern is RIM's behavior regarding the PlayBook. RIM knows this product isn't complete, yet it is shipping it anyway. RIM knows people want email, but it isn't making email available yet. RIM knows what the competition is offering, and barely manages to include half the features that its competitors are including, all while charging the same price. Worse, RIM's co-CEOs have defended the PlayBook to death, despite the misgivings voiced from nearly every reviewer and analyst who has laid hands on it. Their obstinate behavior is baffling and bothersome.

It would have been better for RIM to bite the bullet, delay the PlayBook for another month or two, and release a real killer device that was 100% ready. Instead, RIM has released the framework for a killer device. It has the device part nailed. Now it needs to forge a killer.