Reviewers say the lack of inbuilt email and organizer functions are contributing to dead-slow sales of the new iPad competitor, which went on sale yesterday.
More savvy observers said it could be that Research in Motion is trying to sell its dedicated audience users a weak add-on to its BlackBerry devices, not a more powerful machine that takes advantage of the BlackBerry's strengths.
To access secure, push-based BlackBerry email – widely adopted as a standard by large corporations and the only reason anyone would buy RIM hardware – users have to install a bridge application that turns the PlayBook into a big screen for the CrackBerry.
Both devices have to be present; the phone continues to hold all the data, contacts and call records and the Bridge application itself is so new AT&T has blocked its use until it has completed testing.
AT&T spokesperson Mark A. Siegel said the company just got the Bridge app and "can't say yet how long testing will take."
The NYT reports that RIM was unable to even demonstrate the Bridge app during a reporter's visit to its headquarters two weeks ago, implying the Bridge was a last-minute development.
It shouldn't even have been a first-minute development. It shouldn't exist at all.
If you buy a tablet from RIM, chances are you're not doing it for RIM's strength in cutting-edge, sexy design, or even for the ability to browse the web using Flash, which the iPad2 doesn't support.
You're probably not even paying $499 (for the basic model) or more just to have an alternative to iPad because you can't carry off the too-smug-for-you attitude of dedicated Mac users.
You're doing it to get a bigger, more powerful BlackBerry with a nicer screen. You're getting it for the email and the menu of solidly developed and tested business apps, connectors and customized interfaces to corporate systems.
PlayBook is supposed to run apps written for Android. Those aren't the ones RIM's customers want.
BlackBerry users are plenty unhappy. They've already come up with a way to get around AT&T's block and justified the lack of secure email by saying a lot of them already tether their BlackBerries to laptops or other devices.
A lot are also confused about the difference between tethering a BlackBerry to another device – which requires extra fees – and connecting it to the PlayBook via the BlackBerry Bridge – which is free.
Yes, Apple goes overboard on the idea that users don't need to know anything about their computers or phones to get them to work. (It's not true and would be misleading even if it were.)
But leaving this many questions unanswered, this many connections unmade and this clumsy a way to connect your coolest new product to the only reason people buy any of your hardware at all?
Not a smart move.
PlayBook is designed as a direct, serious-business-user competitor to the iPad and various Android devices.
So far it looks as if RIM understands the need to expand into tablets, but not at all what its customers would do with them or why anyone would choose to buy.
Too bad. It's a pretty little unit.