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Four things RIM's PlayBook got wrong

PlayBook tablet's lack of native email a giant red flag

By Brad Reed, Network World
April 14, 2011 12:47 PM ET
RIM PlayBook

Network World - In the long-ago days of last September, we wrote about four things that Research in Motion had gotten right in its initial public relations blitz for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which ships April 19 starting at $499.

The good news is that those factors are still valid, as the PlayBook does boast strong hardware such as a 1GHZ dual-core processor and a slim frame that measures 0.4 inches thick and weighs 0.9 pounds. The bad news, however, is that RIM's PlayBook has some crucial issues on the software side that could limit its appeal for users who don't already own BlackBerry smartphones. Here, then, are four things that RIM got wrong with the PlayBook:

* No initial stand-alone email, contact, calendar capabilities: Quick, what has traditionally been RIM's signature strength that has propelled the company into a major player in the tech world? The answer, of course, is its ability to deliver secure corporate email better than anyone else on the market. So what's most baffling about the PlayBook in its initial launch is that it lacks stand-alone email, contact or calendar capabilities. In fact, the only way you can get such capabilities on the PlayBook is by syncing it with your own BlackBerry device through a BlueTooth connection.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Four things RIM's PlayBook got right

While this might be all well and good to those users who are dedicated BlackBerry fans, it will impose serious limitations on any PlayBook user who doesn't own a BlackBerry smartphone already. In his review of the PlayBook, the Boy Genius Report's Jonathan Geller notes that while these features are due to be pushed out to PlayBook in a free software update shortly, the "Wi-Fi PlayBook isn't that useful ... without native apps that are extremely necessary in this day and age of mobile computing." The best thing to do, Geller says, would be to wait until RIM has all these features preloaded onto the 4G versions of the PlayBook that launch on WiMAX, LTE or HSPA+ networks in the future.

* Browser bugs need to be ironed out: Early reviews have been generally impressed by the strides that RIM's revamped Webkit-based browser has made over earlier BlackBerry browsers. But despite this, many reviewers reported persistent bugs that could hurt user experience. Engadget's Tim Stevens, for instance, reports that the browser will simply crash if the tablet is running too many applications at once.

"When the system was running under load, with numerous other apps hanging around in the background, the browser would frequently and disconcertingly close," he writes. "It would simply disappear about half-way through loading whatever page we tried. Closing a few apps seemed to fix it, but behavior like this is always a little unnerving."

BGR's Geller has also found some memory-related problems with the browser, particularly noting that the browser doesn't do a good job of saving tabs you're using when looking at other applications.

"Once you leave the browser, any open 'tabs' or pages will not save," he says. "Once you return from another app, those pages are flushed and reloaded. On a device with 1GB of RAM, this is mind boggling."

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