Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu is claiming that RIM may be forced to delay the release of its PlayBook tablet due to battery issues. The PlayBook's release was originally pegged for Q1 2011 but Wu is now predicting the release could be pushed back to a May timeframe. If true, this is not good news for RIM.
The PlayBook's Q1 ship date was itself chancy in terms of attracting a solid user base since it would be launching along with a slew of other tablets running Android, webOS, and Windows 7. That time frame is also virtually certain to see the introduction of a next-generation iPad. That's a market space that will be as crowded as most U.S. airports have been over the past few days.
A later ship date may counteract the one advantage RIM could be able count on to differentiate the PlayBook during a crowded launch season: the company's enterprise focus and the PlayBook's ability to link into an existing BlackBerry environment.
The enterprise focus was never a key to guaranteed business acceptance and adoption to begin with. After all one of the biggest names in enterprise IT, Cisco, has its own enterprise-ready Cius tablet coming out in the next few months. And Apple's iPad now has its own powerful set of enterprise management features with the release of iOS 4.2 last month.
RIM also has the challenge of convincing developers to buy into the PlayBook, a challenge not shared by Apple or any Android tablet makes since both platforms already have a huge catalog of apps to choose from. Despite RIM's claims that the web is all that a tablet really needs, the market has shown that apps are a big factor in a mobile device's success – particularly when it comes to certain business tasks.
As a former IT director, I certainly wouldn't be willing to bet on a brand new and untested device/platform that misses its original ship date - particularly when there are other options that have some proven success and manageability (not to mention user appreciation) and could offer a similar enterprise and business pedigree. Missing that ship date, for whatever reason, would even deter me if the market wasn't so crowded - because it indicates that RIM has bitten off more than it can chew in trying to develop the product.