Skip to Content

The BlackBerry PlayBook Tries Again

It’s the thought that counts.
February 23, 2012

When Apple launches a refresh of its tablet, the earth fairly shakes. Speculation gives way to actual specs, and the tech blogosphere erupts in excitement, discussing what industry will be disrupted next. Will the new camera transform communication? Will the higher-resolution screen transform publishing? What new feature will seize the Apple partisans yet again with delight?

When RIM launches a refresh of its tablet, the most exciting thing that can be said is, “It has email!”

Perhaps the comparison is unfair; BlackBerry isn’t releasing a wholly new tablet this week, but rather simply a new version of its operating system, available as a free over-the-air update. Even so, it seems almost comic in this era of techno-futurism that the mere addition of a native email client to your tablet should count as international news.

Let’s get you caught up, in case you don’t remember the frustration that surrounded the BlackBerry PlayBook’s original launch. Though the 7-inch tablet had formidable specs, one of the most basic features expected of such a device–a native email client–was only available for those who already had a BlackBerry smartphone and paired the devices.

It was a bad move. A Google search for “‘BlackBerry PlayBook’ sucks” today turns up 350,000 results. Some of those aren’t even references to the original launch, but to the new update as well. As ReadWriteWeb puts it, rather starkly, “Sorry, RIM: The Playbook Still Sucks.” Writes David Strom, “We have a company that made its name in messaging (RIM) that took a year to deliver a substandard email app to its tablet.”

CNET is a little kinder, highlighting some of the update’s strong points: Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn integration with the calendar and contacts apps, for instance, and a nifty remote control feature. But the sober Don Reisinger admits that even some RIM die-hards will necessarily be disappointed: “they’re not getting everything. BlackBerry Messenger, which allows users to instant-message each other from one BlackBerry device to another, is still absent from the software.”

RIM has a new CEO, who admittedly is something of a cipher. Given that the PlayBook is reportedly losing the company hand over fist, why doesn’t he just axe the product? Some analysts offered Bloomberg BusinessWeek a theory in December: the PlayBook is essentially an expensive showcase to prove to developers that their BBX OS is worth programming for. “You can’t kill it,” one of them said. “The PlayBook is all they have to show developers, they don’t have a smartphone yet.”

And so that rumored BBX smartphone (“London”? “Surfboard”?), some details of which emerged in November, really can’t come too soon.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.