The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet goes on sale today, April 19, in 20,000 storefronts including Best Buy, Staples and Office Max, facing an uphill battle with the iPad and a sea of poor reviews.
Maker of the PlayBook, Research in Motion (RIM), took a 3 percent hit on its stock price during last Thursday as reviewers claimed the 7-inch Playbook seemed rushed to market. The PlayBook’s software is prone to crashes, and the device lacks a wide selection of apps until this summer. And it lacks built-in email–you must tether it to a BlackBerry phone to read your email, they said.
However, retailers including Staples and Best Buy claim substantial pre-orders for the device, said Reuters.
RIM also says reviewers are missing the point. CEO Jim Balsillie said critics are ignoring the faithful 60 million BlackBerry phone users out there who can now pair their phones with the PlayBook to see their email on a larger screen. “A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry,” he told Bloomberg.
For car electronics industry members, the PlayBook is worth watching because RIM is hoping it will be widely used in the car. RIM formally asked car electronics companies to work with the PlayBook last fall during KnowledgeFest.
But the reviews last week were pretty damning.
“You should also know that even now, only days before the PlayBook goes on sale April 19, the software is buggy and still undergoing feverish daily revision,” wrote David Pogue of The New York Times.
“I got the strong impression RIM is scrambling to get the product to market…” said Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal.
The PlayBook is launching with only 3,000 available apps compared to the hundreds of thousands of apps for Apple and Android devices, (although more PlayBook apps are expected this summer).
On the plus side: the 7 inch tablet size is good for portability, reviewers said, (and also great for in-car use). The PlayBook’s screen got high marks for brightness. The device is very good at multitasking, and it supports Flash. The Wall Street Journal said the camera is better than the iPad’s.
Three million PlayBooks are expected to sell this year, according to a Reuters poll of analysts, compared to the 15 million iPads sold during a similar time frame in 2010. But it’s not fair to compare the PlayBook to the iPad, said an IDC analyst. A better question is how will it sell against the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab, she told Reuters.
The PlayBook’s price tag starts at $499 for a 16GB model. All models are WiFi; you must tether to a BlackBerry for a 3G connection. See below for more specs:
• 7″ 1024×600 WSVGA capacitive LCD touch screen
• Ultra-portable at less than a pound and less than one-half inch thick: 0.9 lbs (425g) and 5.1” x 7.6” x 0.4” (130mm x 194mm x 10mm)
• 1 GHz dual-core processor
• BlackBerry® Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
• MP3, AAC and WMA audio playback
• Support for high resolution video playback (H.264, MPEG4, WMV)
• 1080p HDMI output
• Dual 1080p HD cameras for video conferencing and video capture (3MP front and 5MP rear)
• 1 GB RAM memory
• Up to 64 GB internal storage (16, 32 and 64 GB models)
• GPS, Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), 6-Axis Motion Sensor (Gyroscope), Digital Compass (Magnetometer)
• Stereo speakers and stereo microphones
• Wi-Fi® (802.11 a/b/g/n) connectivity
• Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR support