RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

Courtesy of Reuters

By Randy Giusto- RIM’s announcement last week of its Blackberry PlayBook clearly sends a message that the Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based brand is not going resting on its laurels, nor is it trying to cede any ground to the encroachment of Apple and the Google clones in either the smart phone or nascent tablet spaces.

While we’ve waited for a new BlackBerry OS to roll out for some time, and 6.0 devices are now on the market, this didn’t stop RIM from showing off its BlackBerry Tablet OS at its developer conference. Unlike Apple and Google, who shroud future products and instead chose to launch them at extremely hyped events, RIM’s always had a close relationship with its developer community and its enterprise clients, and it is in front of them where it typically makes its biggest announcements.

Its past acquisition of QNX was clearly key in that RIM will be embracing the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture going forward, and maintains that it is “one of the most secure and reliable operating systems in the world,” this from a brand hell bent on security since day one.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has a lot of horsepower under the hood, 1080p playback, dual cameras for telepresence capabilities, a WebKit browser, and support for Flash 10.1 and HTML5. Although 3G and 4G might be missing for now, the tablet has a symbiotic relationship with the BlackBerry smart phone for tethering and other purposes, that is, if all the mobile operators allow it,

The BlackBerry PlayBook will work out of the box with BES installations, so it could quickly become an enterprise companion device. And as the QNX OS eventually replaces the BlackBerry OS in RIM’s smart phone lineup over time, the relationship between the form factors may strengthen further, as iOS 4 has with iPhone and iPad. RIM may miss the holiday season and cede it to Apple and the few Android tablets that will dribble out, but I think that RIM’s tablet may fare better ensconced in corporate environments, that are increasingly looking at tablet solutions. Plus, knowing that Jim Balsillie has been going around the world these past two years talking about the virtues of deeply intergrated services and iron clad security, that vision will soon be imagined.

RIM also took the liberty last week to announce the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform, a new platform for developers to implement BlackBerry Messenger functionality within their apps. This allows for the integration of BBM chat, invitations, and future content sharing with apps themselves. I’ve never been a fan of RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger platform and view IM as yesterday’s news, or as Gen Y customers put it, “our parents’ social media.”

Still, the QNX OS is at least a year or two off from cross platform deployment and a lot can happen in that amount of time, especially from the Apple and the Android camps, and of course HP now. While the BlackBerry OS and RIMs developer kit has slowly improved, there is still track to be laid to make the development within the BlackBerry platform more efficient, reducing the amount of time to create, test apps in the emulator, and get them to market. It is still an issue discussed at local BlackBerry developer meetups. Hopefully the QNX architecture and BlackBerry Tablet OS leads in this direction. RIM will need to really push the envelope though on smart phone design, especially touch-enabled, as its BlackBerry user base continues to grey.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is just one step into a different future for RIM.

– Randy Giusto