Consider this delicious irony: the Blackberry used to be the ultimate corporate communication tool – much in demand for the secure emailing feature it offered. Then makers Research in Motion (RIM) put in play a subtle image change – at least in India – and pitched to the Young and Restless generation, as a cool tool for staying in touch in an age of Web-centred social media interactions. They seem to have succeed – going by the numbers of younger subscribers that the major mobile service providers have signed up.
This week RIM launched its first offering in the tablet space -- and in the process seems to be reversing its strategy for the Blackberry phone, playing up the enterprise-friendly features of what is generally perceived to be a mass consumer device.
The Blackberry Playbook is a 7-inch capacitive touch screen device with two megapixel cameras, with WiFI connectivity, full HD /HDMI capability and PC-like specs like a 1 GHZ dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM. At the Bangalore launch event, RIM engineers took pains to highlight what they pitched, as the Playbook’s key differentiators in an arena where over 100 tablet variants-- some 15 in India alone -- are jostling for customers. This was the Playbook’s ability to extend from the Blackberry phone to the Blackberry tablet the same secure data communication features which were historically, the company’s USP.
It is achieved by something called the Blackberry Bridge – a feature that allows users to wirelessly ( and securely) connect their Blackberry phone to the Playbook via Bluetooth, retaining the full security of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). They can then synchronise their email, calendar and other apps so that the Playbook serves as a larger display for things like spreadsheets.
And -- something that appeals to our instinct for paisa vasool – users can use the same data plan of their phones to power their Playbook browsing. They can use the phone as a WiFi modem for the Playbook.
In another feature aimed at positioning the Playbook as an enterprise-friendly device, no data handled with the tablet ‘bridged’ to the Blackberry phone is ever saved on the tablet. Disconnect – and there is no data trail on the Playbook.
Hearing this features detailed, I could imagine RIM standing its phone strategy on its head, in marketing its tablet. I haven’t heard of any tablet, not even the iPad, primarily pitched as a serious enterprise tool – except as a sort of large and attractive dashboard for technology -challenged head honchos. Now here is RIM telling me this big screened, brightly imaging, fun thing could be a useful extension of my Blackberry productivity phone. A case of going back to the future? Sometimes, it seems we can have our cake and it it too!
Key specs of the Blackberry Playbook:7” capacitive LCD touch screen. display, 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM BlackBerry Tablet OS powered by QNX technology with support for symmetric multiprocessing; dual High-Definition (HD) cameras for video capture and conferencing (3 MP 1080p HD forward-facing camera 5 MP 1080p HD rear-facing camera).HDMI-out port for presenting on external displays. Stereo speakers and stereo microphones with a media player. H.264, MPEG4, WMV HDMI video output. Micro HDMI port for 1080p playback
The Blackberry Playbook is available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB models at Rs 27,990, Rs 32,990 and Rs 37,990 respectively.
We have for a few days, a video showing the Blackberry Bridge function in our Tech Video slot on the home page.