John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

RIM’s PlayBook: Scoring in Garbage Time

You wouldn’t know it from Research in Motion’s share price today–down 3.35 percent at $46.74–but analysts were generally impressed with the PlayBook, the “professional tablet” the company announced at its developer conference Monday.

“This set of hardware specs beat anything available to date on the tablet market,” Steven Li at Raymond James said in a research note issued today. “We believe the PlayBook tablet shows RIM is starting to compete effectively on hardware specs.”

RBC analyst Mike Abramsky offered a similar opinion, describing PlayBook’s specs as “leading-edge” and arguing that the device is well positioned for enterprise. “PlayBook may be cheaper, more productive than iPad for enterprises to deploy,” he observed, noting that the device requires no additional licenses or carrier costs and leverages existing corporate apps and infrastructure. Abramsky’s preliminarily estimate has RIM selling as many as six million PlayBooks in its first year at market.

Brian Modoff of Deutsche Bank said the company’s new OS has a lot of potential, likely making it easier for developers to write for the device and future products that use it.

Finally, over at Susquehanna, analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro talked up the device’s new QNX operating system, which sounds promising, though he noted that the transition to it could take some time, slowing the development of its app ecosystem.

“An app developer contact who works closely with RIM described the recently acquired QNX OS as “rock solid” as it was designed for mission critical applications, and felt that the SDK allowed for applications to be ported over fairly easily,” Fidacaro wrote. “The QNX OS is Unix-based and supports POSIX (easy portability of code) and OpenGL (3D graphics). We view RIM’s transition to a new OS positively as the Blackberry OS was antiquated, which apparently was not fully resolved with the recently launched Blackberry 6. However, we estimate the transition period to fully upgrade RIM’s 50+ mln subscriber base to the new platform to take at least two years. Furthermore, it is uncertain how easy RIM can port its proprietary technologies, such as security and compression, to the QNX platform.”

And that’s the real problem RIM (RIMM) is facing here: PlayBook is late to the game, and, as impressive as its specs might be, the timing of its launch– early 2011–may prove to be a real detriment. “With the PlayBook only available for consumers after the holiday season, we view this as a mild disappointment,” T. Michael Walkley of Canaccord Adams said in a note to clients Tuesday. “As such, we remain cautious in modeling RIM tablet sales due to the intensifying tablet competition and uncertain demand for this product.”