There seemed to be a fair amount of excitement surrounding the PlayBook when it was unveiled last September. It was BlackBerry maker RIM's big entry into the tablet category — believed to be, potentially, a grown-up, professional grade version of Apple's iPad.
Now reality sinks in. The PlayBook, which starts at $500, hit the market last week, and the reaction was, well... ho hum. Even before the release date, trade publications like PC World ran articles with such headlines as "BlackBerry PlayBook Gets Panned by Reviewers."
In an article that cited criticism from numerous reviewers, PC World's Melissa J. Perenson wrote that the PlayBook had "limited app selection" and "software glitches," while David Pogue of the New York Times lamented that the device had "no built-in e-mail or calendar, no cellular connection, no videochat, Skype, no Notes app, no GPS app..." MG Siegler of TechCrunch asked, "So why not wait until there's a little more polish to get it out there on the market?"
In fact, reports The Wall Street Journal, the PlayBook faces an even bigger problem. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two largest wireless carriers in the US, may not even carry or support the PlayBook. AT&T plans to make it available, but the carrier "says it isn't yet supporting a wireless linkup needed to get work email on the tablet." Verizon is still on the fence.
In another blow, Hulu blocked the PlayBook from videos on its site. This obstacle was expected, since Hulu has blocked other devices from accessing videos in order to push users to purchase its "Hulu Plus" application.
Another black mark: in its current version, the PlayBook has no cellular connection capability. The PlayBook must be wirelessly connected with a user's BlackBerry for the user to have access to corporate email, contacts or a calendar.
The prevailing view, it seems, is that the PlayBook "was rushed to market" in an effort to compete with the recently introduced iPad 2. Harry McCracken, writing for TIME, observes, "Other tablets rushed out in the wake of the iPad have suffered from a similar slapdash quality."
McCracken indicates that"almost everything that's lacking [in the PlayBook] stems from software shortcomings. ... A few months from now, the PlayBook could be a dramatically better product than it is now — but I'd wait and see rather than plunking my money down just yet."
Maybe it's a sleeper... but right now, the PlayBook is nothing more than a snoozer.
Below: BlackBerry's iPad vs. PlayBook comparison from last November and other video promos —