When RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook in September 2010 Mike Lazaridis billed it as "the first enterprise-ready tablet."
A year later in September 2011, the PlayBook is being marketed as "the world's first professional-grade tablet."
Both enterprise and professional are words that associate with specific verticals. The businessman (or woman) who is constantly on the go. The construction project supervisor that needs to stay on top of numerous contractors. A project manager juggling a dozen different projects. The IT professional who can leverage the extra processing horsepower and screen real-estate to support and manage a multitude of servers and users.
The PlayBook isn't even mentioned on the blackberry.com Apps & Software home page1, although the page does demonstrate RIM's typical attention to detail, listing BlackBerry 6 OS, BlackBerry 7 OS and BlackBerry Device Software 5.0 in the tried and true order of Old, Newest, Oldest.
Development and Apps
Searching for "playbook" on App World yields 1057 apps (and 280 Games, which are listed separately). Being generous and assuming that all 246 apps in News, Productivity, Business and Finance are suited for the elusive "enterprise" and "professional" markets, roughly 23% of the available apps are applicable2.
If you were a manufacturer struggling to find a position for your tablet in a world dominated by the iPad, what would you do? You might rush to get the NDK out the door so developers can use C/C++ to develop highly-performing, powerful applications.
If you're RIM, what do you do? You rush to get the native SDK out the door so developers can "create rich and compelling games for the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet using C/C++, the Standard Template Library (STL) and Open GL ES 1.1/2.0."
What about the enterprise? Or the professionals? Nope, forget those.
In a post titled "Apply to participate in the Native SDK for BlackBerry Tablet OS Closed Beta!" (excitement included) the recently-departed Director of Developer Relations, Mike Kirkup, announces:
I am very pleased to announce today that we are moving to the next stage in our launch plans for the Native SDK for BlackBerry® Tablet OS (‘Native SDK’) tools targeted at game developers. As of today, developers from around the world can apply to participate in our closed beta program to get access to these new and exciting tools.
And RIM is enforcing the closed beta as well, with Kirkup acknowledging that he denied a developer who apparently wasn't planning on building games. It's worth noting that the developer in question, Kyle Fowler, has built FourPlay, a foursquare client, for the PlayBook and Blaq, a Twitter client for both BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook.
Disclosure: I like RIM and have a great relationship with them as an an enterprise customer. And while I've happily attended four of their conferences in the past three years—and presented at their developer conference—I'm much more excited to be attending RedMonk's Monktoberfest next month.
- This isn't totally true; the sixth and final slide in the main feature advises you to "Keep the software on your BlackBerry PlayBook up-to-date" and shows an exciting screen of the PlayBook downloading a software update. [back]
- Some of the less useful business apps include a countdown timer, multiple mortgage and commission calculators and multiple glorified RSS readers masquerading as single-site news apps. [back]