Organizations that have been waiting for a secure business-oriented tablet computer to arrive will have to sit on their hands for a few more weeks.
Research In Motion said Tuesday its 7-in. PlayBook tablet will be carried by eight Canadian carriers, and while it didn’t give a launch date Best Buy Canada said the Wi-Fi version, which starts at $499, will be available in its stores April 19.
There is no word on when PlayBook cellular versions will be available here.
But some industry experts wonder if RIM has taken too long to push Apple Inc,’s iPad out of the office.
“It would have been great [to have been on the market] six months ago,” Mark Tauschuk, research director of London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research said in an interview. But the 12 month lead in tablets built up by the bigger iPad will be hard to overcome.
PlayBook’s advantages for some organizations will be its smaller size, Tauschuk said, which makes it pocketable (for those with large pockets) and handy for applications like filling in forms.
If rumours are true, PlayBook will also run applications built for the Android mobile operating system, opening the opportunity for users to access thousands of apps. However, because the tablet isn’t out yet no one knows how these apps run in emulation mode.
Disadvantages include its size compared to the 9-inch screen of the iPad and Motorola’s 10-inch Android-based Xoom (also coming next month) for graphics-heavy tasks, a Wi-Fi PlayBook has to be tethered to a BlackBerry for secure wireless connectivity, and PlayBook runs on the new QNX operating system which is unfamiliar to users and application developers.
“It’s a real tough game to get in right now, and you’ve got to have something really compelling to compete,” Tauschuk said. PlayBook is “pretty darn compelling,” he added, but its cause would have been helped with earlier availability.
Security is PlayBook’s high card, Tauschuk acknowledged, “but we’re hitting one of those inflection points where it doesn’t matter much.”
On the other hand, Tauschuk admits that other major competitors that haven’t launched aren’t in any better shape, including Xoom, Cisco System Inc.’s Cius, Avaya Inc.’s Desktop Video Device and Hewlett-Packard Co.’s TouchPad.
The number of organizations that need the kind of security offered through BlackBerry Enterprise Server are “few and far between,” he added.
However, Forrester Research collaboration analyst Ted Schadler
said there are many regulated organizations in the financial, health care, pharmaceutical and defence industries that have banned iPads and Android-based tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab because they need BlackBerry-type security.He believes these organizations will eagerly buy PlayBooks.
Similarly, Krista Napier, IDC Canada's senior analyst for digital media and emerging technologies, notes that RIM has a large base of business customers which makes the company well placed to sell PlayBook. "There's definately opportunity for them to tailor a product to the needs of the business market," she said.