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Got my hands on a Blackberry Playbook

One of the perks of being located in Waterloo is that sometimes you get to see some cool stuff from RIM before other people do. Usually that is because a co-op student or employee drops a “test” unit in a parking lot or fails to hide it well at the pub but this time folks from RIM brought in two Blackberry Playbook to the VeloCity residence!

The Blackberry Playbook

They went through the development options and the deal with getting apps into appworld, etc. All stuff that is blogged about everywhere. What everyone wanted to do was get their hands on it. My first impression? Fast, light, easy to hold with one hand, but the multitasking is probably the most impressive thing that I noticed right away and the one thing I like way more than my iPad. The best part of the presentation though, the icon on the bottom left of the pic above shows an app called Book Keeper, well here is the guy that created that in Flash.

VeloCity student already had an app on there

He just happens to live in VeloCity this term.

So what didn’t I like?

  • The UI is a bit odd. I know Apple is rumoured to be dropping the home button but I went looking for it. To get a menu you have to swipe the bottom third up or pull the top third down. Once I got use to it I still didn’t find it a good way to do it as it didn’t work on first go and if I want out of app I want out now. The other thing I wonder if it will interfere with reading and other things that might like to use that action in the app.
  • Screen is too small. I love my iPad, I love my iPhone, there is a clear difference in screen size and utility. This size of tablet is just bigger than a phone but way smaller than a laptop. I think the same thing that kills the small netbooks is the same thing that will hurt this size of screen. It will be really good for a lot of uses though… but I think it won’t be as fun as an iPad for games and reading.
  • It just looks like hardware, nothing remarkable. Perfect for the business market but not for those that see the tablet as an accessary as well as a tool. That likely won’t hurt the Playbook adoption I don’t think.
  • Trying to get it to work with legacy Blackberry OS apps (we were told just OS 6)… forget your old OS RIM, you will cripple the Playbook with too much software options.
  • The guys demo’ing don’t have an iPad — nothing bugs me more about folks from RIM than their total lack of knowledge of the really hot products out there.

What I really liked?

  • It’s fast, really fast, and the battery is good. This newer build of the Playbook has no battery problem I can see. We had a ton of apps going, pulling a lot of data, a lot of video, and lots of just hard usage for close to 2 hrs and the batteries went down but used maybe a 1/3. It got hot too which says to me the battery should be dead… but it was fine.
  • The screen is nice. Really clear, really bright.
  • Overall user experience is good. I might not like the swipe but overall it is a good experience. Hopefully as they work on it (rotation doesn’t work yet), it will get a bit smoother with the swipe. How easily it just plugged into the 60inch TV in the residence was pretty cool though… can’t do that with an iPad.
  • It is the right size for a tool in that I can one hand it and not be worried it might drop. With the iPad I am always worried about swinging it around and knocking it.
  • The dev environment — Adobe AIR is a smart move.

Overall I think it is good device and if it is priced right I am sure it will do ok. Will it be the market leader? No way. The iPad 2 will certainly keep the hot and sexy category and people will pay a premium for that. However, if you were looking for an affordable (hopefully) tool that is more than you can use to replace a lot of portable devices out there from pay point stuff to inventory apps to restaurant order taking software.

Really excited to see if students at VeloCity try their hand at making some apps for it, maybe some day we will see Kik on it 😉

Kik on a Playbook?

…and yes, all pics taken on an iPhone 4.

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  1. I completely disagree with your Adobe AIR comment.

    As a developer, it is probably the worst move RIM could make. Why not just implement full java? They just killed all of their J2ME developers that have been on RIM’s side for years. On top of which, you just gave control of your exclusive product to Adobe.

    Poor choice.

    Other then that, not a bad article. The PlayBlook looks good.

    • The students seem happy but we will see this weekend. Leander, the guy that already submitted an app, was familiar with Flash as a hobby so getting an app working was easy for him. Time will tell but given the choice between Blackberry OS dev tools or Adobe AIR tools I see an improvement… maybe not ideal, but its better.

  2. The next vendor I see who, in a presentation/demo mode, even really admits to the competition’s devices (beyond pointing out anywhere theirs is clearly superior) will be the first.

    We had one vendor in who claimed that another vendor wasn’t even in the same market, when the same glossy the presenting vendor gave us quite clearly showed a product intended to compete with that other, single vendor. You’re lucky if they read their own glossies.