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Video: Up Close with the BlackBerry PlayBook

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Yesterday I got a chance to take a look at the BlackBerry PlayBook at DEVCON 2010. Unfortunately, Research in Motion still isn’t ready to let us go hands on with the PlayBook, sandwiching three prototypes between glass and running a video loop. But it was close enough to get a good sense of the device.

The PlayBook’s display is bright and vibrant, at least when it’s playing video with rich colors. There were a lot of reflections coming off the BlackBerry PlayBook’s display, but it was tough to tell what portion of the reflections were due to the protective glass.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is less than 10mm thick and it looks even thinner in person. It looks to be a very portable device, but it’s too big to put in a pocket and too small to warrant a full on gadget bag. If this thing takes off there are going to be a lot of happy man-purse manufacturers.

How the BlackBerry PlayBook performs in the real world is anyone’s guess until RIM starts putting them out there, but it’s clear that the exterior is a cut above what we see from many consumer tablet manufacturers. There’s nothing cheap looking about the PlayBook.

One thing that I find interesting is that all of the PlayBook’s ports and buttons are centered on the long edges of the device. This isn’t much of a problem assuming it’s used in landscape mode, but it looks like the volume, play/pause and power button will be right where users rest their thumbs and fingers when in portrait mode. The symmetry looks good in a display case, but my first impression is that RIM put form before function.

RIM goes as far to call the BlacBerry PlayBook the first professional tablet, but we know that there have been many business tablets over the years. It’s a no-brainer that organizations that’ve deployed thousands of BlackBerry smartphones and maintain BlackBerry servers will be drawn to the PlayBook. But RIM is walking a fine line between positioning the PlayBook as a productivity device and an entertainment device. Every business person is human and appreciate music, movies and games as much as the next guy. I found it interesting that the PlayBook demo room’s posters mostly portrayed consumer-oriented apps, with email being the only productivity app showcased.

The BlackBerry sure has evolved over the past few years.

I’m looking forward to getting a real hands on with the Playbook to give RIM’s new OS a spin. I’m not the only one who wants to check it out. I spoke with Oliver Bussmann, SAP’s chief information officer, yesterday and he told me they’re very eager to get more people to use devices like it. I’ll be sharing a recap of our conversation shortly.


Xavier Lanier is the publisher of Gotta Be Mobile and a photographer. He uses too many devices to count, but his current favorites are the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nikon D800 and Sony RX 100M II. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

2 Comments

  1. aftermath

    09/30/2010 at 6:47 am

    Thanks for calling this a “close up”. Something like that should probably go without being noticed or being said, except for the fact that a surprising number of blogs have labeled similar videos as “hands on” in the spirit of driving in traffic to their sites. It’s sort of like your “what makes a device feel cheap” conversation. Little details like this, keeping things honest and informative, help set GBM apart from the majority of slop out there that gets dumped into the rss feed troughs for the “tech swine” to devour.

  2. Rick Hendershot

    09/30/2010 at 12:37 pm

    It’s not hard to understand why RIM went about it this way. They were specific enough to say what it is going to include, but it is clearly not ready for greasy hands to be pawing over it. There will be hell to pay if they don’t deliver the goods in a few months.

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