Five reasons why RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook isn't flying off the shelves

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RIM’s iPad battling BlackBerry PlayBook tablet went on sale in the US yesterday. But rather than having droves of the BlackBerry faithful scrambling into stores to pick it up, reports are of a far more muted launch day. Reuters are claiming that some stores only had five PlayBooks in stock, and were considering even shifting those a tough sell.

So why, considering the BlackBerry smartphone range’s popularity, is the PlayBook faltering? Here are five reasons we think why PlayBook sales are off to a slow start.

1) There is no native email or calendar support

A well documented problem with the BlackBerry PlayBook, the lack of a native over-the-air email client is a ridiculous oversight on the part of RIM, considering that their legacy secure email features are what has driven their popularity in the past. It’s bound to turn their traditional enterprise customer away, especially considering how convoluted the BlackBerry bridge process used to sync emails from a smartphone sounds. Likewise, it surely couldn’t have been that dificult to have native calendar support from the outset, but again the feature is missing.

2) QNX is an unproven operating system in tablets

Though QNX has a long and proven track record on computers, and is a much loved UNIX platform overall, it’s yet to prove itself in the tablet form factor, which may turn off consumers who are increasingly comfortable with Android and iOS devices, let alone RIM’s own BlackBerry OS. Our experience of the QNX OS on the PlayBook has been mostly positive, but a lack of familiarity with the software may make it a hard impulse buy from consumer’s point of view.

3) The tablet competition is hotting up

It’s been almost seven long months since RIM first revealed the BlackBerry PlayBook, and that’s as good as a lifetime in the tech world. In that space of time we’ve seen the rip-roaring success of the iPad continue into the iPad 2, the announcement of the HP TouchPad based on the Palm OS and also a growing number of Android Honeycomb devices, from the recently launched Motorola XOOM to the 3D-capable LG Optimus Pad. RIM have taken far too long to get their tablet on the market, and now the breadth of options available instore for tablet buyers means the PlayBook is just yet another keyboard-less slate to most tech heads.

4) The number of apps available is poor

Compared to iOS and Android, the number of apps available for the BlackBerry PlayBook is very low. Though its strong processor, camera and quality screen sees it fighting fit in the hardware stakes, tablet devices live or die by their app eco-system, and the PlayBook is sorely lacking here. PlayBook optimised versions of Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps and Kindle are just a few of the high-profile apps available on other platforms but missing on the PlayBook at launch. Though Android-app compatibility is headed to the PlayBook, even then the new raft of tablet-focussed Honeycomb Android apps will be incompatible. If you’re into your apps, the PlayBook probably isn’t for you. Yet.

5) RIM products are traditionally slow-burners in terms of sales

This point isn’t nessecarily a negative, and will likely quell the stuttering hearts of RIM executives. The company have never been able to match the same hype-hitting-heights of Apple, but it’s never really been a problem for them in the past. Take last year’s BlackBerry Torch launch; reviewers slammed it based on buggy software, but RIM quickly fixed it when it hit stores and now the sliding touchscreen phone is one of their most popular handsets. With CEO Jim Balsillie suggesting that many of the PlayBook’s current problems will be fixed in time for their BlackBerry World conference just over the horizon, we may soon see a spike in PlayBook sales.

Gerald Lynch

One thought on “Five reasons why RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook isn't flying off the shelves

  • The number one reason is due to pre-orders!
    That and being available at 20000 stores, unlike the Apple-hype-frenzy method of first selling at the Apple stores.

    They treat their adherents like trained sheep…

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