• Don’t Abandon the PlayBook

    There’s been a lot of back and forth lately about the BlackBerry PlayBook. Stories claiming that John Chen and the creative types in Waterloo were working on a replacement, other stories claiming that there is no BlackBerry tablet in the company’s future product development plans.

    Whichever way it goes, and I’m hoping they decide in favor continuing to produce a tablet, the one thing in my opinion that BlackBerry absolutely cannot do, is abandon the current owners of the BlackBerry PlayBook.

    I recently entered into the tablet world. And I purposely bought a BlackBerry PlayBook. I found a good deal on a 32GB LTE model on Amazon.com. Yes I know the history of how rough the launch was, lack of software that plagues it even today, but that didn’t matter. I saw the potential still there in that little seven inch tablet and went for it. If Mr. Chen and the folks at BlackBerry headquarters would give just an ounce of continued support to the PlayBook, and keep it in the $250 price range that I got mine for, I feel they could have a serious challenger in the “mini” tablet arena.

    Recently, BlackBerryOS.com editor newshutr and I were debating the issue of the continued viability of the PlayBook going forward. He owns the WiFi only model with the slower processor and was pointing out that without the ability to upgrade the tablet to BB10, no one would want to buy it.

    My response to his statement was that there was more than one way to handle the BB 10 OS issue and make the playbook a competitor in the tablet market. The first way would be to tweak the current OS to give it some of the BB 10 functionality. Give it stand alone BlackBerry Messenger capability complete with voice and video chat and upgrade the Android runtime engine to be able to side load more apps (Skype, Candy Crush Saga anyone?). Those two things right there would be a huge improvement.

    Our astute editor then went on to point out that trying to make the PlayBook run BB 10 had already been tried and failed. Yes that’s true I admitted, but I countered that BlackBerry had made the same mistake Apple did when the iPad first launched. They tried to force the phone iOS, with little or no modification to work on the iPad. There were issues galore with screen resolution for iPhone apps running on the iPad and performance issues that everyone has forgotten about now. You can’t just toss a phone OS straight onto a tablet and expect it to work right out of the box.

    I say what the geeks at BlackBerry need to do is go back and relook the code that goes into BB 10 and change what needs to be changed to get it to run properly on the PlayBook as a native OS, not something that is strong-armed from the phone onto the tablet.

    Again newshutr brought up the specs of both the WiFi only and WiFi+LTE models and how they couldn’t handle the operating system. I was ready for this one too. This time, instead of doing the opposite of the boys from Cupertino, you do exactly what they’ve done. You let the current owners the WiFi PlayBooks get v1.0 of the new tablets OS then it's done. They either have to upgrade to the LTE model PlayBook or buy the new replacement tablet (more on that in a moment). Then cut the 4G models like mine off at v 1.5 or 2.0. After that everyone has to upgrade hardware and that should give BlackBerry enough time to develop and produce the second generation PlayBook.

    Now, back to why I think BlackBerry will end up making another tablet. If John Chen is serious about not wanting BlackBerry to be a niche product, then there has to be a tablet in the mix. That’s just the way things are in the electronic device arena these days. Samsung, Apple and Windows have tablets that compliment their phones. BlackBerry needs to do the same if they hope to remain relevant. It would be foolish of BlackBerry to not use their new partnership with Foxconn to achieve that goal. Looking at the corporate side, where BlackBerry is still king, what better way to market a tablet, for business, especially to the large corporations and the government agencies already using BES and BlackBerry phones, than to give them a tablet that seamlessly compliments their BlackBerry products they already use.

    The corporate part aside, there are also the loyal PlayBook non-corporate users, like myself, who still honestly like using the PlayBook and would like it even more with just a few tweaks, or a shot at using a true tablet version of the BB 10OS on our existing hardware. That’s the base that BlackBerry will need in their corner when the time comes to launch the PlayBook replacement. That’s the group that in a way feels abandoned with the lack of support for the PlayBook they’ve received in the past, yet are still willing to stand by the brand. You alienate the base and you have nothing to build on, no word of mouth references, no one willing to trade up to the new device and spend the money on accessories
    that go with said device.

    Ultimately, BlackBerry will do what BlackBerry will do where a tablet is concerned. We'll see what happens. I'm not gonna pronounce the PlayBook dead just yet as others have. I mean after all, look what happened when that was said about the track pad and the button belt.

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