The BlackBerry Playbook tablet was announced in the latter part of 2010, and many Web sites, pundits and BlackBerry enthusiasts reveled in the anticipation of its launch. With a strong list of features including a 7” screen, front and rear cameras, an accelerometer, GPS, 1Ghz dual core and 1Gb of ram, quite a few previews had high hopes for the Playbook as a business alternative to other tablets on the market. If nothing else, there was a feeling that the Playbook would force the dominant tablet manufacturer to innovate.
On April 22, 2011, the BlackBerry Playbook launched to much fanfare, and there were an estimated 50,000 sales on release day, a figure that surpassed other tablets such as the Motorola Xoom or the Samsung Galaxy. Expectations were that RIM would ship 500,000 units in the first quarter, and things looked relatively bright for BlackBerry.
Unfortunately, time hasn’t borne out the rosy predictions that initially accompanied the Playbook’s release. Even with ad campaigns touting the device’s ability to use Flash, sales have been sluggish, and the RIM-backed tablet controls only 3.3% of the market, according to Strategy Analytics. Windows controls 4.6%, while Apple still owns over 60% of the market.
Some initial concerns about the device’s functionality – the power button was in a poorly-located spot, for example – couldn’t be addressed without new physical version of the Playbook being released, but there have been four software updates to the tablet in an attempt to give it greater overall functionality.
The first happened on May 2, 2011, and included the addition of video chat as well as BBM over BlackBerry Bridge. On June 11, the company added a Facebook App, In-app payments, as well as charging improvements. June 20th saw the release of Flash support along with a series of television commercials, and July 19th included extra language support and connectivity for BlackBerry Bridge.
But these service updates don’t seem to have been enough to push the Playbook into the big leagues with other competitors on the market, and rumors abound that RIM will be discontinuing the production of the PlayBook. In addition, rumors about a possible 10-inch BlackBerry have died down, with several sources claiming that sluggish sales have convinced the company to put their efforts into developing a new “superphone”. RIM is now speculating that they will sell just under 1 million tablets in the second quarter of 2011, well down from the 2.4 million they had initially forecast, fueling further rumors about Playbook discontinuation or the abandonment of tablets by the company altogether.
A slick UI and full-featured Web browsing does give the Playbook some advantages over other tablets on the market, and has proven popular among BlackBerry loyalists. But with too few apps and nothing to really set it apart from the competition, the Playbook has a tough road ahead.