RIM is a very odd company. They're capable of making some really incredible business moves, while at the same time failing to grasp key, basic facts about the market they compete in. It's lead to a schizophrenic few years for the smartphone giant, who has haemorrhaged market share even as they've expanded overseas and set the industry abuzz with discussion of their new tablet. Now the PlayBook's launch is finally on the horizon- and suddenly things look dark.
RIM Can't Afford Bad Press.
There are two Apple never does: bring unfinished products to trade shows, and ship buggy products to reviewers. While there's value in trade shows (CES is a big part of the reason the PlayBook had so many people excited), nobody profits from unfinished crap hitting reviewers- and customers.
David Pogue, Walt Mossberg and Engadget all posted their PlayBook reviews today. I wouldn't call any of them positive. All point to several instances where the PlayBook feels unfinished or half-baked. Plenty of features- like email and BlackBerry Messenger, won't come until later in the summer. 4G models are also due 'later' as well. There are (supposedly) 3,000 tablet apps...but not quite yet.
Really, RIM, are you so afraid of the TouchPad that you had to launch on the 19th? If all this stuff really is just on the horizon, couldn't you have delayed the launch (and the reviews) another few weeks? Whatever added visibility the PlayBook gains from launching now has to be offset by someone like David Pogue calling it "silly" to buy.
What the PlayBook Lacks:
All of these things will come to RIM's tablet eventually. But not now, and probably not by launch in all cases. Every missing feature by ship day will be one more nail in the PlayBook's coffin. Look at how much crap the Xoom took for shipping without working 4G or SD support. And neither of those are core device functions.
The PlayBook is not a functional device without a working email application. Asking users and corporations to drop $499 on up for something fundamentally incomplete is the definition of lunacy.
It's worth noting that the only people for whom the PlayBook will launch as a fully functional device- BlackBerry users- aren't that interested in it. Only 12% report as "planning to buy" the new tablet.
How Bad is it?
We won't really know until April 19th comes and goes, but RIM is still a few steps short of disaster. If the PlayBook takes off, it will start with the enterprise sector. And they don't make their decisions in or for the short term. If RIM adds in their "missing" features and gets every feature off the ground in a timely manner, they could recover from this latest bungle. There's certainly reason for optimism- even in these reviews.
Though Walt Mossberg also advised against buying a PlayBook right now, he praised the tablet's unparalleled Flash support, and every reviewer was positive about the design and feel. The QNX-based OS won praise for being "smooth and fast", and the PlayBook's gesture-based UI was also lauded. RIM has 2/3rds of a great product on their hands. The PlayBook can live on- for a little while- on the promise of what it could be. But the longer RIM takes to get it right, the lower their stock will plunge.