Probably not since the time of Moses have tablets been as talked about as they are today. Apple kick started the trend with the iPad and since then every IT and consumer electronics company seems to be launching what it hopes will be the iPad-killer. While others have tried to make their mark in the smartphone market, it remains one with two clear winners — Apple's iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry. It would then only make sense that the two successful players translate their learning for their tablet devices and that is exactly what they have done.
When RIM sent over their BlackBerry PlayBook for me to review a few weeks back, my hands quivered with excitement as I unboxed the device. Would the product be able to live up to its hype? After all, I could not think of another product launch in recent history that had been as hotly anticipated as PlayBook's. I turned on the device and paired the PlayBook with my BlackBerry phone and updated my BBM Status to "On the PlayBook"… within minutes I was bombarded with questions about how the device was, what I thought of it etc., and after each question came the inevitable one — How does it stack up against the iPad? I figured that to do a review of the PlayBook and to not compare it with the iPad would be a futile exercise. Yet, could I successfully compare two products that were as different as, well… Apples and BlackBerries?
Going back to my first point about both companies staying incorporating learnings from their smartphones into their tablet devices, you may remember that when the iPad was first launched it was accused of just being an iPhone with a larger screen. Turns out the killer-feature of the iPhone had not been it's shiny screen at all, but it's ease of use Operating System and it's App Store.
With literally tens of thousands of magazines, journals, games, and music apps available on the iPad App store today, it is no doubt that the killer-feature of the phone has transcended itself into being the killer feature on their tablet as well. When the PlayBook however got launched, the same tech reviewers got a bit thrown off — A BlackBerry tablet without native support for email and BBM?? Yes folks, you heard that right, in case you hadn't already heard it before!
Unless you are using a web-based application for email, you cannot get push email on BlackBerry Messenger to work on your PlayBook without a BlackBerry phone. "But the Killer feature of a BlackBerry is its push email and BBM!" you may scream. Really? Is it?
BlackBerry still remains the number 1 choice of smartphone in the corporate world not because of its safe and reliable looks and ability to have real-time group chats. Privacy has always remained the company's killer feature and keeping that in mind will make you truly appreciate the PlayBook and its design and features. On installing an app called "BlackBerry Bridge" onto your phone and syncing both devices via Bluetooth is a job that takes under two minutes and allows you to access your personal data, including your push email and BBM conversations on the larger PlayBook screen. Leave your phone in the other room? Your Tablet can't hook up to it and you can say bye to your email connectivity too.
The good news? Lose your PlayBook and nobody else can connect to your email without your phone or your contact list on BBM. This may lead you to the conclusion that a PlayBook without a BlackBerry is like having a Porsche without an engine. Not true. With the inclusion of a fantastic browser, an App Store, built-in support for Word, Slide and Presentation to go and two cameras facilitating video chat, the PlayBook is a fabulous device on its own.
Another USP of the BlackBerry smartphone among business travellers is the Global Roaming tie-ups the company has with various service providers the world over. Loving your 3G iPad in your home country? Crazy high roaming rates will render your device useless without Wi-Fi when you're travelling. Heard critics moaning about the PlayBook being Wi-Fi only? Sync it up with your BlackBerry phone and enjoy unlimited global and international use using your existing plan at no extra cost!
The device itself is about half the size of an iPad, and I actually like the keyboard a bit better than that of Apple. The PlayBook also has Flash, which allows you to view a lot of websites that you wouldn't be able to on the iPad.
Overall I find the PlayBook has received a lot of negative reviews with focus being on what it cannot do with little credit given to what it actually can. While the PlayBook remains an excellent device on it's own, if you're a current BlackBerry owner, especially one who travels a lot, my personal advice is this — the PlayBook can't be beaten.
Kiran Chhabria is the Director of Jumbo Electronics and a local blogger who writes at www.kiranscorner.com.