RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook is going to have a lot of challenges at launch, former RIM employee Raymond Reddy tells us.Reddy was in corporate development for RIM until 2008, when he left to start PushLife, a music software company that makes syncing easy across mobile platforms.
He says he’s focusing his company’s tablet strategy on Android first, despite his history and even though PushLife got its start on the BlackBerry.
- The PlayBook may be late. Reddy says it’s proving more difficult than RIM expected to port the traditional BlackBerry interface and experience — including the all-important email app — to the new QNX operating system used by the PlayBook.
- It won’t have many third-party apps at launch. Same reason — convincing developers to port their apps from the BlackBerry OS to QNX is a tough proposition. (Although RIM may get around this by including an Android emulation layer, according to RBC Dominion analyst Mike Abramsky.) He did note that the Playbook will be the first tablet to support Flash, which will bring that entire development ecosystem to the device.
- The first Wi-Fi-only version won’t be able to connect to a lot of corporate BlackBerry email accounts unless the user also has a BlackBerry phone near the PlayBook and uses the PlayBook’s tethering capability.
This last point sounds completely insane, given that corporate email is the entire reason the BlackBerry exists. But Reddy just got back from CES, and said that this is what the BlackBerry booth team told him. We’ve contacted RIM for comment, and haven’t heard back.
The reason is security, which is a big selling point for the BlackBerry. Corporate IT departments can’t be sure that a PlayBook user would be connecting over a secure Wi-Fi connection. Instead, the PlayBook will force users to have a 3G connection. And that means tethering — at least until the 3G version of the PlayBook comes out later next year.
Reddy did note that moving to QNX was the right thing for RIM to do in the long run — it’s more efficient, which is critical for battery life. But the transition isn’t going to be quick or easy.
Update and correction: an earlier version of this story cited Reddy as a former executive at RIM. He wasn’t–he was an employee in corporate development and M&A. It also implied that he said the Playbook would flop. In fact, he made no prediction about its success or failure, but only pointed out these problems. Sorry for the errors.