Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blackberry Playbook

RIM introduced the "Playbook" tablet computer with much fanfare yesterday.It relies on Flash & HTML5 as the key development platforms. RIM was able to build the compatibility for existing apps on top of QNX which is good. It was smart to rely on the HTML5 platform given the poor UI capabilities in the existing Java framework, it wasn't clear if the tablet supported native game development despite the support for OpenGL in QNX platform.

The specs are great compared to the existing iPad, RIM did need some +ve hype at this point after the Torch fiasco. It is just 10mm thick compared to 13.4mm for the iPad and I thought iPad was thin. It has a 7" screen, but the resolution is 1024x600 whereas it is 1024x768 for the 9.7" iPad. Playbook also comes with a dual core 1GHZ processor compared to the single core CPU in iPad. Playbook also comes with front and back cameras and HD display with HDMI output compared with none for iPad. It also tethers with the Blackberry for 3G connection as opposed to the additional fees required for iPad. In short, RIM has upped the ante on the tablet front and we will probably see more from other Android OEMs in the short run.

The Playbook also has a few things going against it like the lack of native apps, GPS, 3G support and the introduction of a new OS which is not proven yet. The reliance on Blackberry for 3G can be both good and bad. Ultimately, the success would depend on how the marketing and messaging around this new device motivates app developers and users. eg. Palm OS was technicaly good on paper, still failed to succeed. The stock market reaction was not very strong either.

Related announcements on the software front also waived the fees for the developer program, introduced an ad platform (makes sense given that iPhone ad program has captures 1/5th of the mobile ad market) and open sourced the webworks platform. RIM is beginning to show leadership, but the key aspect is how it can integrate QNX into its legacy hardware and how it captures the consumer market. The playbook even though is technically advanced still plays to the enterprise market rather than the consumer market which has always been tough to crack for the Blackberry maker.

See this post for more details on specs etc.

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Update 10/26.
RIM announced the SDK for Playbook development which is based on AIR. I was able to develop an app in under 30 minutes and deploy to the VM running QNX. There were no apps included in the OS, but there were some promising animations in the UI. You can also develop using Flex via the new Flash Builder Burrito beta which is pretty cool (even though it requires some workarounds). I'd rather wait for the upcoming HTML5 development option.

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