We’ve spent a few moments this morning trying out the new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet that RIM has loaned us, and one thing has already stuck out as the best thing: Watching hi-definition video on the PlayBook’s bright, crisp display. It’s gorgeous, and excites us for the possibility of a future iPad with a “retina” display.
But here’s the problem: The only HD video that we can really watch right now is the 3-minute demo video that RIM pre-loaded onto the PlayBook, a cheesy but beautiful series of nature shots, aerial city views, etc.
RIM just doesn’t have a movie store like Apple’s iTunes where we can rent movies, TV shows, etc. Rivals Google and HP don’t either. And it’s a big shortcoming when you want to do something like watch a couple of movies on a cross-country flight or download a couple of episodes of “30 Rock” for a cross-town subway ride.
The only realistic way to download and put HD movies on the device right now is piracy.
Sure, there is YouTube, and you can stream some stuff using the web browser. Maybe someday there will be a Netflix streaming app. But that’s not the same as being able to download and go.
We asked RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis about this shortcoming last night during RIM’s PlayBook launch party, and he mostly shrugged it off, saying something about how partners will eventually fill this void. But who? And when? And how well?
This wouldn’t be a big deal if RIM was wholeheartedly interested in making this an enterprise tablet. But the company has big hopes to go after the consumer market, and will be advertising it heavily. No doubt, some marketing materials will mention watching HD movies on the PlayBook. But where is the movie store full of new releases to rent?
This is precisely why we think Amazon of all companies could eventually be a big player in mobile devices and tablets. It’s the closest to Apple when it comes to being able to offer customers a strong media ecosystem — movies, TV shows, music, and now apps. And maybe Microsoft someday, if it can ever ship a tablet.
But for RIM, Google, and HP, this is a problem that will need a solution. Or they will never have as strong a consumer tablet story as Apple.