In March of last year Research In Motion announced there first step into the tablet computer market. They picked April to launch the powerful and portable BlackBerry PlayBook to the world. It was the first product from RIM based on the QNX platform.
Unfortunately the PlayBook was missing several key features that makes a BlackBerry product special. The lack of a native email client was the most missed feature on the PlayBook. Along with RIM choosing the new QNX platform, it was a new journey for developers to create for the PlayBook OS. Convincing developers to create applications for a new platform continues to be an incredibly hard mission to complete, especially with RIM prepping for the BlackBerry 10 launch in the not to distance future.
The PlayBook launched at $499 for the standard 16GB model, a price that many felt was too expensive for a 7 inch tablet with no native email. The PlayBook stalled out of the gates, never catching the eyes of the consumer. It would not be until RIM decided to drop the price of the PlayBook to $199 for the 16GB model that it started to cook up some new users.
While RIM knew that the lack of native email, calendar, and other features were holding up the interest in the PlayBook, they felt it was important to wait until their next software update was fully ready, and then to launch the 2.0 OS update. The PlayBook did launch with impressive features such as 1080P HD output, dual front speakers, BlackBerry Bridge using a BlackBerry phone and a 3MP front facing camera. Even with those features it was hard to convince consumers to get the PlayBook versus an Android or iPad tablet.
In February RIM launched the PlayBook 2.0 software update to the world. The update brought the much requested feature of native email and calendar as well as a little surprise for social network users. Now using the Contacts app in 2.0 users could connect social networks of Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. This added the feature of messaging to those networks in the Messages app, as well as having all your contacts in one place. It was a welcoming feature for all.
The 2.0 update also brought the ability to use some Android apps on the PlayBook adding hundreds of apps to the PlayBook's catalog. The update also added the feature to BlackBerry Bridge which allows users to use their BlackBerry phone's keyboard on the BlackBerry PlayBook (Which I am using for this article as well as most of my articles). 2.0 added the video store which uses a similar interface as the music store already on the PlayBook.
A few weeks ago RIM launched 2.1 update which was a minor update to the PlayBook, updating the Android feature to launch each app in a separate window as well as improving overall performance of the tablet. SMS ability was added to the BlackBerry Bridge feature allowing users to send SMS messages via Bridge.
This update made the PlayBook a competitor in the tablet market and the number of users took off. The BlackBerry PlayBook is one heck of a steal at $199, and often can be found for under $199 all over the web. The PlayBook is impressive when teamed up with a BlackBerry phone adding many additional features to the smaller 7 inch tablet. The PlayBook's app ecosystem has been expanded drastically over the past 18 months and will only grow even more in the future.
While several major apps have not hit the PlayBook and may never, many others can fill the void. Top developers are continuously porting games and productive apps to the tablet and Indie developers are excited to create apps for the PlayBook. RIM has enticed the app developers and they have responded with overwhelming support.
Have you purchased a BlackBerry PlayBook? If so, how has your experience been? Have you been able to convince others to get one? What feature are you still looking for?