John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

PlayBook on Track for Q1 Kick-Off

Research in Motion’s PlayBook tablet is on schedule for launch in the first calendar quarter of 2011. That’s the word from the company itself, which was forced to issue a hasty clarification after its announcement of a 4G version of the device launching this summer raised fears that the Wi-Fi-only version might be delayed.

“The BlackBerry PlayBook is expected to begin shipping in the U.S. in Q1,” RIM said in an email statement.

And there you have it.

Meanwhile, the device is garnering mixed reviews at CES. After some hands-on time with it, Engadget described the PlayBook as “blazingly fast, comfortable to hold, and intuitive to use.” Gizmodo liked it as well, talking up its hardware, responsive display and UI. “RIM’s got something here that could really stand on top of the bajillion other crappy tablets that are going to launch this year,” the site concluded. “They just have to take it the rest of the way.”

Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Robison agreed. “RIM’s PlayBook strategy [is] exceptionally compelling— pending successful execution,” he wrote in a note from CES. “The company’s ace card in tablets is sure-fire security for IT departments who loathe adding another piece of client software to enterprise networks.”

But others, like Wedge Partners analyst and RIM bear Brian Blair, were not so impressed. Though he praised the device’s sturdy build and crisp screen, he slagged its lack of native email and calendar support.

“There is not a built-in e-mail program that we saw, nor is there a calendar: arguably the two most critical features of a Blackberry,” Blair said. “Calendar and Email are only available, if the PlayBook is “tethered” to a Blackberry. Short of that, users need to use the browser for e-mail and calendar.”

And, admittedly, that does seem silly. Unless you’re a CIO. In which case, you probably prefer to push data (and remotely wipe it, if necessary) from one device instead of two, and appreciate the gesture.

Still, Blair came away with the impression that the PlayBook isn’t yet fully baked, and to be fair, it isn’t–after all, this is a pre-release device.

“We know this is an early build and that bugs are being worked through over the next couple of months, but nearly every feature we tried on our demo unit was having problems,” he concluded. “The video player froze and the games wouldn’t play. The only thing that worked was the ‘Coverflow-like’ scrolling of the different applications, which the device did with ease.”

But as Blair himself observed, a lot can change in three months. And presumably RIM is doing its damndest to ensure that it does–before Apple debuts the iPad 2, which will undoubtedly become the new standard against which all tablets are compared.

In the meantime, here are a few PlayBook promo videos RIM released in conjunction with CES.