Saturday, April 16, 2011

RIM Fumbles Launch of PlayBook Tablet Computer

In what seems to be a textbook example of how not to launch a product, Research In Motion's PlayBook is getting a rocky start. Even the endorsement of NBA superstar Dwight Howard added to the criticism of RIM's PlayBook. With reviewers telling consumers to hold off and some missing features, the PlayBook's good features are being ignored.

NBA superstar Dwight Howard showing up the party doesn't a successful product make. The Orlando Magic center was in living color at Research In Motion's PlayBook launch party Thursday night. He was even pictured chatting with RIM's co-CEOs.

After Howard left the party, he sent out a tweet that said, "Takin off. Had a blast RIM and blackberry y'all did an excellent Job the playbook is great. I love it. Now I need a busload of them for my teammates lol so we can all be connected. Hook a brother up lol. hint hint NYC I love y'all but I gotta get home. Yuuuuuuuaaaaaa."

But will a Howard endorsement help RIM overcome all the negative reviews? Howard's tweet seemed to set off another round of criticism as some asked if the ball player actually uses the PlayBook, especially since he sent the tweet using an iPhone app, according to news reports.

RIM's Poor Timing

Before the tablet Relevant Products/Services computer even gets out of the gate, some reviewers are suggesting that consumers hold off on buying the device Relevant Products/Services. That's troublesome to Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. Not because of the opinions, but because of the timing.

"The problem I have with the reviews is that the official product launch was Thursday night. The timing of these early reviews makes no sense," Greengart said. "I don't understand how RIM would allow product reviews out before they had a chance to position the product themselves and highlight the features."

Of course, RIM did showcase the PlayBook at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but not nearly in the same way electronics manufacturers make their splash at a product launch.

RIM's frequent software updates to reviewer-held PlayBooks may have also dampened the experience. News reports cite software updates even during the week since the device was out for review.

"There are features planned for the PlayBook that are not in the initial release, just like with other product launches. Some of them are fundamental features," Greengart said. "The fact that RIM was actively pushing out new software to review units even the week before launch shows that they are working diligently to make changes and we should expect to see those features in the future."

The Pros and Cons

One of the biggest criticisms of the PlayBook is the lack of native e-mail. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie told The Wall Street Journal that this feature is on the way. In the meantime, he suggested people can use webmail.

But the PlayBook, which goes on sale April 19 with a $500 price tag for the 32GB model, is also missing other so-called fundamental features, including a contacts database, a calendar, a chat application, and a 3G or 4G connection. The PlayBook only makes available 3,000 applications, compared to the iPad Relevant Products/Services's more than 160,000.

"People are picking up on the negative aspects of the PlayBook reviews, but there are positive aspects as well. A lot of people are praising the hardware. A lot of people are praising the core operating system's capabilities such as visual multitasking," Greengart said. "Some are pointing out that RIM has liberally borrowed ideas from Hewlett-Packard's webOS, but that's not necessarily a bad thing."

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