Sandeep Sahgal, managing director — Middle East for RIM, with the new BlackBerry Playbook at the VIP preview of the gadget at Prive, Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa. Image Credit: Karen Dias/Gulf News

Dubai: After a lacklustre launch in North America in early April, the new BlackBerry PlayBook was rolled out for the first time outside of the Western markets at a special preview in Dubai.

Excitement at the VIP event was high, but some of those on the guest list expressed disappointment with the new Canadian-made tablet from Research in Motion.

Despite its sleek smaller design, fluid functionality and a seven-inch LCD screen touted as more portable than larger competing tablets, the out-of-the-box PlayBook doesn't offer many of the standard features loyal BlackBerry users have come to depend on.

Without BlackBerry Messenger, e-mail, and the calendar customary on RIM phones, the inaugural unveiling in the UAE seemed premature, guests confided to Gulf News at the event.


"This was positioned as enterprise, but it doesn't even come with some critical elements for business people," said one guest among Dubai's young tech set gathered at the Armani Prive in Burj Khalifa.

"They should have waited until the PlayBook had everything loyal BlackBerry mobile users want and need. You need BBM, e-mail and the calendar to get all or your communication done in business.

"This will be upgraded but without these features, it is taking away something from the purchase factor. I would wait to buy this tablet until all of the features are made available but we don't know when that will be."


Ironically, BlackBerry posted a slogan on one of its display stands at its preview party reminding guests that if they previously bought a competing tablet from another manufacturer, they may have lost out.

"Yeah, You Should Have Waited" the banner declared set against a wall-sized screen flashing video images of the new tablet which is now selling in the US for $499 for the 16GB model up to $699 for the 64GB model. Officials didn't give an actual launch date for the new PlayBook in the UAE, and it's not known if the original retail list prices will be matched when the tablets are released here.

Sandeep Saighal, managing director for the Middle East, RIM, made a special appearance at the VIP preview but kept his welcome short. Despite the missing favourite features on PlayBook, Saighal pledged that the tablet is "going to change the way you do business… this is just a small teaser, the best is yet to come."

He said that entry of PlayBook into the international tablet market has marked "a new era for RIM."