Blackberry Playbook Panned by Reviewers

Reviewers who had previews of the new Blackberry Playbook had been largely quiet because many of them had to sign NDAs when they were allowed to test the device, but Playbook launched in the US yesterday, NDAs expired and the flood of reviews was mediocre at best.

The overarching theme of the reviews so far seems to be that the Playbook feels like a rush job and lacks many of the most basic functions one might reasonably expect a device of this type to have.

With fewer than 3000 apps available the Playbook is off to a bad start, but the big deal is with the out of the box functionality.

It doesn’t have an email client or a calendar, there’s no 3G option,  no skype or video chat and no Blackberry Messenger.

Some of these functions including email and BBM are achievable if you own a relatively new blackberry phone and tether it – one function that the Playbook will support. If you don’t have a Blackberry phone it’s basically a wi fi only web browser, and if you do it’s just a bigger screen for your phone.

RIM’s shares have tumbled.

RIM have defended the lack of functionality without coupling the Playbook to a Blackberry phone, they say that it’s more secure. This may well be true, but it instantly limits the potential market to existing Blackberry owners.

CEO Jim Balsillie said  “A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry,”

Balsillie also pointed out that the hardware of the Playbook is of a very high spec, and it is, but as anyone who bought a top spec PC with Windows Vista will tell you harware isn’t everything. The average consumer – and that’s what tablets are for, consuming – cares only about usability and functionality, large numbers on hardware spec sheets do no impress them.

What RIM have done is release an accessory for Blackberry phones and not a standalone product. Had the Playbook been marketed as such and priced accordingly perhaps the reviews would have been more favourable. But RIM positioned the device to go head to head with the iPad 2 and are selling it at the same price.

The poor reviews aside, RIM have really missed the boat In the 6 months between announcing the Playbook and actually getting it on to shelves, the Motorola Xoom and the iPad 2 have both been announced and released. Compared to these devices the Playbook looks like a me-too effort to get something on to the shelves.

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