Top 10 Reasons Why BlackBerry's PlayBook is a Winner

By Robert McGarvey

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The reviews of the new BlackBerry PlayBook are in and they are terrible. David Pogue in the New York Times dismissed it with, “It must be skating season in hell.” In the Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg was a tiny bit more charitable but he, too, ultimately shrugged it off as a non-event. Laptop Magazine just sneered at it: “Somewhere along the way, BlackBerry lost its cool.”

But nonetheless there are reasons -- possibly compelling -- reasons why enterprise CIOs need to take a long look at the PlayBook. Why? It just may be the way to satisfy rising employee demand for tablets without jeopardizing the organization’s security infrastructure.

Here are 10 reasons to put PlayBook on the review list:

1. “PlayBook is targeted at mobile professionals,” said John Jackson, an analyst with CCS Insight. And that is key. It is not designed as a consumer product like iPad is. RIM instead created its tablet to serve the business user.

2. PlayBook, with a 7” screen, is ultra-portable and it's also zippy with a 1GHz dual core processor and 1GB of RAM. For employees who have been demanding a tablet because it is the latest new thing, PlayBook should scratch that itch.

3. You probably already support PlayBook because it piggybacks on BlackBerry’s enterprise products. CIO’s “already have the infrastructure to handle the devices. Most of our enterprise customers have had RIM devices and Blackberry Enterprise Server for a long time. There is a lot of work that goes into getting the same level of command and control for other platforms,” said Charles Edge, director of Technology at IT consulting firm 318. Getting PlayBook up and running in many enterprises will not be much more complicated than charging the battery.

4. Secure email and calendar -- as delivered via PlayBook -- are big enterprise advantages. Right now, accessing native email and calendar on PlayBook involves “bridging” it to a BlackBerry; essentially putting the mobile device’s mail and calendar on the PlayBook via BlueTooth. That has prompted some reviewers to pan the tablet as a glorified BlackBerry accessory. The upside? Those tools on the mobile phone are secure and so they will be on PlayBook.

5. PlayBook already runs Flash. This means that whole segment of the Web that is unavailable to iPad users is easily accessed by PlayBook. Overall the PlayBook Web browsing experience is hands down faster and better than going online with pokey Safari on an iPad.

6. The PlayBook touch screen provides the best multi-tasking tools of any tablet. iPad still struggles with multi-tasking, but PlayBook, using RIM’s proprietary QNX operating system, offers easy multi-tasking -- just what mobile professionals need.

7. Secure access to Android apps. RIM stared the comparative lack of BlackBerry apps in the face (there are around 3000 compared to hundreds of thousands that run on iPad) and it’s come up with a clever solution. PlayBook will run at least some Android apps (there are over 100,00) but to get on PlayBook they have to be downloaded via the BlackBerry App World, where they have been vetted by RIM staff in a system closer to Apple’s Apps store than the wild west of the Android Marketplace.

8. Plug in an HDMI cable and the PlayBook can be used to deliver PowerPoint shows to a projector. iPad cannot do this.

9. No cellular connection, which, if you think about it, is a kind of plus because it produces cost savings. Right now, PlayBook is Wi-Fi only; no cellular carrier support except it has a built-in tethering tool that lets it power up using a BlackBerry phone’s 3G network for no added cost.

10. Cost: $499 buys the 16GB model. The 32GB model is $599. The 64 GB is $699. Those price points exactly match iPad 2’s.

A last reality: numbers matter. There’s no counting BlackBerry out, despite the faltering launch of PlayBook, because, at day’s end, it still has a huge installed base: BlackBerry remains the phone of choice in many enterprises.

Said Bzur Haun, CEO of mobile phone consulting firm Visage Mobile: “77 percent of Visage Mobile’s 150,000+ enterprise customers still rely on Blackberry as their smart phone of choice with only eight percent of our smart phone inventory made up of iPhone users. Will the same be said for the Playbook over the iPad? We have yet to see, but RIM products are attractive to businesses because they offer more security and a business-friendly platform.”

Robert McGarvey - As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation's leading publications―from Reader's Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain's New York, and Fortune Magazine.