Today across North America a brand new player on the tablet market was delivered into the hand of a few eagerly awaiting customers and will surely start being shipped in bulk to enterprises across the continent over the next few months. Though not greeted by the kind of fanatical fan-boy line-ups that precede an Apple launch, RIM has a solid device in the Playbook.
Sure reviews have trashed on the lack of some basic applications and the not always terrific performance of more intense Flash apps in the browser but don't under-estimate this product. Many of this initial shortcomings will be fixed in the coming months including the release of the missing apps for email, etc. Personally I'd argue that for most consumers, the browser is still the best way to get at your email and corporate Blackberry users will have access to their email via their phones so I actually don't see this as a major hit on the device overall.
The other thing that is a bit problematic but I'm sure will see fixed as soon as possible is that the Playbook is launching with Flash Player 10.1 rather than the massively optimized for mobile, 10.2. I'm guessing this update will have a dramatic effect on performance overall.
Not to mention for every report of "Flash sucking" on the Playbook, we're hearing a report of existing web apps running great. Local company Stickeryou.com received anonymous word this morning that their Flex app runs really well out of the box. So be sure to take the mainstream reviews you read with a grain of salt.
This release has been yet one more glaring example of the tech "news" industry's gross lack of journalistic ability. From the Canadian Press yesterday saying that the Playbook launched in the US last week to the Slate review that starts by saying the writer hasn't even seen the device. Note: I'm not linking to these because they don't deserve the traffic.
Forgetting the launch details, there are dozens of reasons why the Playbook is off to a good start from our perspective. Major organizations like the NFB, who are nominated for numerous FITC Awards, have released apps for launch. Canadian firm Teknision has played a major role in the UX of the Playbook. Toronto Flash developers and others like them around the world have created a variety of apps for the Playbook using familiar development tools - many of them are simply creating optimized versions of their existing Flex apps.
Of course Adobe has lots of info about the Playbook and how AIR fits in with the platform. One of the latest announcements from them is the release of a Playbook viewer for their Digital Publishing Suite so all those publishers, like Conde Nast, who have been sending their publications to the iPad will be able to target the Playbook as well.
Overall I think the future is bright for the Playbook despite what the average review might lead to believe. Much like the Blackberry phone made it's way into the public eye via corporate users addicted to email, I think the Playbook could take the same path - particularly if RIM manages to put out a solid phone that also uses the QNX based OS and fully integrates with the Playbook.
If you want to learn more about developing for the Blackberry Playbook you might want to grab a ticket to FITC Toronto and check out some of these presentations:
Sunil John's Paper-Robo app trailer