Research In Motion(RIM) unveiled its first tablet computer and a new operating system that will power it, joining the race to catch up with Apple Inc.’s iPad. Investors don’t seem to be ebullient on RIM’s prospects, shares are down about 1% premarket.
The 7-inch PlayBook is a radical break for a company that’s been used to evolutionary steps, and some of its specs beat the competing iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab easily. The PlayBook’s dual-core, 1-Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, for instance, is faster than anything the competition has to offer.
The PlayBook runs a new operating system, which is based on QNX Neutrino, a product RIM bought earlier this year. Neutrino is a modern, UNIX-like operating system that currently runs in many embedded systems, including cars. According to RIM, developers will be able to build apps for the PlayBook based on a range of technologies, including Java, Flash, Adobe Air, OpenGL, and RIM’s “WebWorks” HTML widget platform.
The PlayBook has two cameras, 1080p HD video playback, and—as expected, but still shockingly—apparently no modem, at least at the moment I’m writing this. Instead, it may rely on pairing with an existing BlackBerry handheld. It’s unclear whether the PlayBook will work for folks who don’t already own BlackBerrys.
The PlayBook is not evolutionary. It’s big, it’s exciting, and it’s risky. It’s an aggressive gamble that could set the agenda and actually cause Apple to chase behind—or it could be an expensive boondoggle that falls flat.
The reviews are just starting to trickle in:
Morgan Stanley: We believe the PlayBook is well suited for enterprise, but could be far less successful with consumers. Between the crowded tablet market, the potential for a major OS overhaul across the entire platform with all the risks that entails, and the continued share loss in North America in both device shipments and subscribers, we remain Underweight.
Goldman Sachs: RIM’s PlayBook tablet surprised us by being positioned for the enterprise, rather than the consumer, and by having a robust set of specs including a dual-core 1GHz processor and 2 HD cameras. This could allow RIM to offer a differentiated product rather than a “me too” to the iPad. The PlayBook offers a unique use case by tethering to the BlackBerry over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth as a secure extension to the BlackBerry in the enterprise that can serve as a display or a projector. While the Wi-Fi tethering eliminates the expense of a separate data plan, it also reduces the incentive for carrier subsidies. In addition, the Q1 launch is a qtr behind expectations.