GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

Why the PlayBook could beat the iPad in government

Its interface gives it a head start with BlackBerry users, and extra features have appeal

Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry line of smart phones, has delivered the BlackBerry PlayBook, which the company hopes will be a major contender to Apple’s iPad.

Touted as the world’s first professional-grade tablet, the PlayBook has as close to the feel of a standard BlackBerry as the company could make in a larger format — 7.6 inches by 5.1 inches by 0.4 inches — and many new features that diehard BlackBerry users should appreciate.

Given that everyone in government from the commander-in-chief on down the line seems addicted to their BlackBerry phones, it’s probably a good move on RIM’s part to keep the interface as similar as possible.

The timing of this release, shortly after Apple released its own iPad 2, is interesting. But I guess the longer they waited, the more they could learn from what worked and what didn’t work with the first iPad.

“PlayBook” also is an interesting choice of name for a device that is targeted at business and government. But I guess they can’t call it “Workbook,” because that is a software company. This naming products thing is tough.

Of course, now that more than one major player has started making this type of platform, which is smaller than the old, laptop-sized tablet PCs, a generic term for it will have to be defined. Let’s see…handheld tablet? Thin tablet? Hmm. You know, I’m going to go with “tablette.” Let’s see if that catches on. If it does, you can say you heard it here first.

But on to the question at hand. Apple’s iPads are being used in some state, local and federal agencies, but compared with its consumer popularity, it hasn’t exactly taken government by storm. Could RIM have better luck there, given the popularity BlackBerry products already have with government organizations?

I would have to say yes. The PlayBook’s interface is similar enough to other BlackBerry devices that users already know. In fact, if someone knows nothing about the PlayBook but uses a typical BlackBerry, there is almost no learning curve. I had to really look to find some major interface differences between the two platforms.

But the PlayBook has enough additional capability in terms of memory, screen size and available programs that it could definitely fill a niche in government. I’ve had only a brief look at the PlayBook, but I can nonetheless predict it has a good shot at blazing a trail into government, passing the barriers the iPad hasn’t.

Of course, time will tell, but I don’t think we will need to wait very long to find out.

Time will also tell whether "tablette" catches on, but I think I already know the answer to that one.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

Reader Comments

Thu, May 26, 2011 EricE

@mr. Made in America - 90% of consumer electronics are made in China for the same reasons WalMart is the largest retailer - Americans like and buy lots of cheap stuff! so what's your point exactly?

Thu, May 26, 2011 EricE

"But I guess the longer they waited, the more they could learn from what worked and what didn’t work with the first iPad." ?? Or maybe they were caught flat footed and it took them that long to shovel something, anything, out the door (missing native email - really?) "Apple’s iPads are being used in some state, local and federal agencies, but compared with its consumer popularity, it hasn’t exactly taken government by storm" Nothing "takes government by storm" - but we already have an iPad piolt program, and soon it will grow to the point where calling it a pilot is probably a bit of a misnomer. "But the PlayBook has enough additional capability in terms of memory, screen size and available programs that it could definitely fill a niche in government. " Huh? People don't buy checklists (Ok, non-geeks when I say people) they buy functionality. What apps? What available programs? Windows Phone 7 has more apps than RIM and RIM has had how many years now? I think the really telling thing is that they have an Android application compatibility layer - theres a way to express confidence in your platform!

Mon, May 23, 2011

@ Michael in Atlanta: iPads are made by poorly paid workers in China. Stories have been in the media that it's almost slave labor. Having an American home office doesn't make the product Made in the USA.

Mon, May 23, 2011 Michael Atlanta, GA

Shouldn't the Federal Government be adopting technology owned by an American company instead of a Canadian one? And when the American product is far more superior to boot!

Mon, May 23, 2011

The writer is proving to sound completely detached from current technology. In actuality, the Playbook has recevied repated poor reviews from numerous respected tech magazines. It doesn't even have e-mail functionality without being tethered to a Blackberry. Unreal. The writer says he's only had a breif look at the Playbook, but apparently feels thats enough to give it his blessing. RIM is so desperate to keep its head above water, they are actually coming out with an emulater to allow Android apps to run on the Playbook. Add to that the battery woes, poor sales, and recalls, and you have a rushed product that was half-baked and put on the shelf to keep up with the Jones's. That's simply the wrong way to do business.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above