My previous article looked at Dell's strategy for competing with the iPad. This time I look at Canadian firm Research In Motion's (RIM's) approach to the tablet. The Blackberry manufacturer, who has been very successful selling into the Corporate mobile IT marketplace resisted the urge to try tablet form factors pre-iPad but has recently joined the bandwagon of announcements of products aimed at challenging the iPad. However as with Dell's approach, there are some things that cause me to doubt their potential for success.
First they are squarely aiming at the market they know best - the corporate IT sector. The device, the "PlayBook", however sounds more like a consumer device in name, and indeed includes multi-media features more associated with consumer products. This is seemingly trying to address the well-established idea of consumerisation of corporate IT, but from a backwards perspective. I have written much about this consumerisation, and have always emphasised how I expect it to stem successfully from consumer to corporate rather than the opposite direction! Microsoft have already tried and failed in this strategy and I remain unconvinced about the RIM attempt too.
Secondly, the main attraction (and indeed strength of the Blackberry) is the way RIM understand the integration corporates like with business enterprise systems (BES). But for the PlayBook to achieve BES, it will need to be tethered to a Blackberry! The decision to do this seems bizarre. It kind of admits that the Blackberry form factor is inadequate; otherwise why launch the PlayBook at all? And in addition, this decision by RIM means that business users will need to carry around two devices instead of one, and IT departments will need to manage twice as many devices and all the heartache that brings them.
Finally, the PlayBook will not arrive until early 2011 at the soonest. By then, the iPad will already be in its second generation and the number of business and productivity apps have exploded from the thousands that already exist today. RIM system apps for PlayBook number zero today. Also as I mentioned in the article on Dell, the selection of a 7" screen for the PlayBook really misses the point of how different apps and the internet look when they are on a 10" screen in your hands. Those extra 3" really make the difference between the feel of a smartphone and the feel of a new class of device.
Both the Dell and the RIM responses to Apple's iPad seem to suggest that companies in the sector are frantically scrabbling around to identify a new product for their portfolio which can match the competition, and in my opinion coming up short. We shall see...