Did RIM's Arrogance Screw up the BlackBerry PlayBook?
4/21/2011 by: John Oram
Nobody wants to trade places with RIM co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie. Last week there was the very rocky introduction in New York City for their tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. The Wall Street Journal summary by Walt Mossberg was terse "unless you are constantly glued to a BlackBerry phone, or do all your email, contacts and calendar tasks via a browser, I recommend waiting on the PlayBook until more independently usable versions with the promised additions are available."
Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook - Promised so much, delivered so little?
When BSN* saw the BlackBerry PlayBook at CES it looked very promising. The screen was way more impressive than the iPad that one of our editors bought. Looking at a movie was going to be great. RIM said it would have stereo speakers, same claim that HP/Palm makes for their webOS TouchPad. Adobe Flash looked great last week on the PlayBook, unlike the Apple iPad and iPad 2. There are only a few tiny buttons perched at the top of the PlayBook. However, almost every major function on the PlayBook can be controlled by touch, even turning the device on.
So what happened during the past 90 days? It appears RIM did a "Ready - Fire - Aim". This first showed up in early April when RIM's chief marketing officer, Keith Pardy, decided to leave the company for "personal reasons". Then there is the first generation QNX operating system for a tablet. We cannot wait to compare the BlackBerry PlayBook to the HP/Palm 3rd generation webOS TouchPad. Last week, the PlayBook's missing applications were an enthusiasm killer. Why would RIM show up without the most basic applications available on the cheapest of Asian clone tablets?
To make a PlayBook work, you must already have a BlackBerry phone. RIM claims that gives you the proven security of their proprietary applications. It also means for people who don’t have a BlackBerry phone, the PlayBook is DOA (Dead on Arrival) because of all the key features that will be missing.
RIM claims to overcome these "minor" inconveniences with a small piece of code called the BlackBerry Bridge. The Bridge software requires cellular connectivity and provides messaging and other crucial PIM functionality - by transferring calendar, email, and contact data between a BlackBerry smartphone and a PlayBook tablet.
Mike Lazaridis, RIM co-CEO said months ago that the major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, will have the PlayBook. However on Tuesday's first shipping day, BGR (Boy Genius Report) showed a screen capture from AT&T which had no support for the BlackBerry PlayBook Bridge. To make the matters worse for RIM, do you remember who was the exclusive carrier for their most expensive smartphone, i.e. for customers that would pay an arm and a leg for a smartphone? Yep, you've guessed it correctly.
BlackBerry Bridge for connecting PlayBook to BlackBerry phone - Not gonna happen on AT&T
Making PlayBook's promised creditability even worse, Wednesday Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney raised concern about the BlackBerry PlayBook's long-term prospects after saying the carrier hadn't yet decided to carry the tablet. Raney said Verizon was "still evaluating" the design and left open the nagging possibility that it might not arrive at all. RIM has not commented on her remarks as of the deadline for this article.
Verizon is probably looking at the competition's tablet offerings which will all come with an email program, a contacts program, a calendar, and a memo pad. Those minor missing items are to arrive for the PlayBook in 60 days. Those two months could be a lifetime of unhappy buyers filling Internet blogs with vitriol.
On the positive side BGR says PlayBook first day sales may have exceeded expectations. They quote the comments of RBC Capital Markets General Manager Mike Abramsky saying "his team placed calls to 70 different Best Buy, Staples and RadioShack locations to inquire about PlayBook sales performance on launch day. Reported performance ranged from light sales in some locations to sell-outs, which occurred at 11 percent of the stores RBC polled."
Abramsky notes that the PlayBook may have outperformed first-day sales of Motorola’s XOOM and even Samsung’s popular Galaxy Tab. His enthusiasm may be colored by the fact that Barbara Stymiest, chief operating officer at RBC Financial Group, sits on RIM’s board of directors. RBC also makes a market in RIM Securities.
Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, claims that 45,000 units of RIM’s first tablet were sold on launch day through Best Buy and Staples alone, counting 25,000 preorders predominantly for 32GB and 64GB versions.
It is truly sad to see a multi-billion dollar company make the mistakes that have shown up with the BlackBerry PlayBook. We can have some more patience with new manufacturers like Notion Ink's Adam. The Adam suffers from admitted first generation hardware and software development problems of a start up company. But, the necessary applications are shipping with the product – not promised to be available 60 days after launch.
Unfortunately, it looks that both of RIM's CEOs suffer from typical arrogance syndrome which brought many great companies down. After all, arrogance displayed by Mike Lazaridis and his stopped interview at the journalistic institution that goes by the name of British Broadcasting Company i.e. BBC when honest question was asked (RIM's prospects in Middle East due to haggle with the governments - and the Playbook's availability in those markets) only goes to show that RIM did not have all the answers readied and acted like a spoiled brat, throwing toys out of pram.
By next Monday, a clearer picture will emerge on whether the BlackBerry PlayBook is going to only appeal to existing Blackberry phone users or if more of the general public is willing to wait 60 days for those necessary tools.
RIM, BlackBerry, PlayBook, QNX, Apple iPad, Adobe, Flash, HP, Palm, webOS, TouchPad, Motorola, XOOM, Samsung, Galaxy Tab, Notion Ink, Adam, tablet, email, contacts, calendar, memo pad, stereo speakers, 32 GB, 64 GB, Wall Street Journal, BGR, Best Buy, Staples, RadioShack, AT&T, Verizon, RBC Capital Markets, Jefferies & Co., Jim Balsillie, Walt Mossberg, Keith Pardy, Mike Lazaridis, Brenda Raney, Mike Abramsky, Barbara Stymiest, Peter Misek
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