The time for a showdown is...soon.
It's high noon in this dirty old industry. Two titans, Apple and RIM, are about to square off in the first great clash of the tablet revolution. The former has millions and millions of sales and the awe of a world still gaga over anything with a touchscreen. The latter is taking hits on all sides and still has yet to launch a solid iPhone competitor.
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We're talking a 1 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, up to 64 GB of storage and a 3 and 5 MP webcam. The battery is a healthy 5,300 mAh and we can expect HDMI-out and some seriously sweet media performance. Recent rumors also have it launching in early March. The company has confirmed that the PlayBook will hit during Q1...which, for them, starts in March.
The iPad 2 is expected to launch a month later, in April. We expect to see an announcement in January, which will give RIM all of February to convince folks that their slate is a better buy than Apple's next big thing. One way to do that is by dropping the price, which is why rumors of an 8 GB $399 entry-level model seem so likely.
Of course, the iPad 2 is likely to usher in the original iPad as a budget device. Which would give RIM an even harder sell.
Their recent purchase of TAT bodes well for the future of BlackBerry / PlayBook interfaces, but we're unlikely to see anything from TAT ready in time for the first PlayBook. RIM will have to stand alone on the merits of their device.
The PlayBook- and the QNX software behind it, are the keys to RIM's ten year plan. Which sounds great, until you realize that this plan apparently involves no real changes to the BlackBerry smartphone line-up. Not in the immediate future. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis stated that his company plans to focus on the tablet market "as a way of freeing where smartphones can go."
Which doesn't really make any sense. We see every day where real smartphones can go. HTC and Samsung and Apple and Motorola have all had multiple huge hits over the last two years, while RIM has continued to lag behind modern smartphones in almost every aspect. BlackBerry Messenger is great, enterprise security is great, but RIM still has yet to deliver a single touchscreen device that works nearly as well as a Galaxy S or an iPhone.
More from Lazaridis: "What I'm saying is that with BB 6 it's a great multimedia platform. But the difference is, rather than being all things to all people, we can present the best platform for the application. Full web, real multitasking... very few people can do it properly. The point here is in that environment, you can use it differently. But a 7inch screen is too big to be a phone."
In case you can't parse out Corporate Bull-Speak, Mike is saying that RIM has no idea how to make a phone today's buyers want. So they're launching a tablet because, hey, Apple did it and RIM has to respond with something!
I won't say the PlayBook is doomed. In fact, I think it looks like a solid product. But it is 100% a response to the iPad. Which means it is not its own device. The PlayBook will get its month in the spotlight, but that's about all. RIM will need to bring something new to the table if they want more than that.