RIM taps OnX to bring PlayBook to IT shops

Toronto-based IT solutions provider OnX Enterprise Solutions Ltd. announced on Friday that it’s offering the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet to its customers. But while the move appears to be part of a larger strategy by Research In Motion Ltd. to build support among businesses, one industry analyst said systems integrators might not be able to save the tablet from its struggles.

The device, which officially hits the market on April 19, has been met with extreme prejudice by the blogosphere and gadget review sites. Pundits are pointing to a lack of apps as well as the absence of native e-mail support (for users without a BlackBerry smart phone) as the biggest issues with the device.

But the negative sentiment isn’t being expressed at OnX, which views the device as an “enterprise-grade” tablet with security features that go beyond what is currently offered by RIM’s competitors.

“From a sales and marketing perspective, you can use a Galaxy, a Sony device, or an iPad,” said Enza Alexander, executive vice-president with OnX. But for critical apps that manage commerce, insurance claims, or Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, she added, the PlayBook is the most ready for prime-time

She added that the ability to control the device through BlackBerry Enterprise Server-based services will also be a key differentiator for the PlayBook.

As for RIM’s strategy to tap the channel, OnX CTO Michael Cardy said it will be crucial to help organizations implement tablets as part of their overall corporate strategy.

“Going through a different supply chain engages enterprise organizations that are figuring out their entire user experience and vision,” he said. RIM’s approach to go through systems integrators or solutions providers to get to market will also put less risk on senior IT leaders, Cardy added.

But not everybody sees the strategy as a recipe for success.

Mike Battista, research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said RIM’s plan to go through IT solution providers will have little difference on its overall bottom line with the tablet.

“It’s not drastic enough,” he said. “It’s worth doing, but I just don’t see it working out.”

Battista said shops that already have BES and hundreds of BlackBerry devices in the field managed by their IT department might be interested in buying a few PlayBook devices, but will probably not opt to use a solutions provider to take the plunge.

“The iPad is still the go-to tablet and they’re going to hold onto that for awhile,” he said, adding that the PlayBook would need to immediately add native e-mail to make in-roads into both the consumer and business markets.

For Battista, most of the PlayBook’s issues are at the software level as opposed to the hardware.