The upcoming Playbook tablet from Research In Motion is going to be a much stronger contender than people expect, says a former employee.The reason: Flash applications running on the device itself — not just in the Web browser, as they do on Android tablets — could finally let RIM match the huge number of apps for the iPad and Android tablets.
James Schauer is a partner at Octave Partners, but he worked at RIM until about a year ago, and oversaw the business plan for BlackBerry App World.
Here’s why he thinks Flash is so important.
- Flash is easy to develop for. Especially compared with the Objective-C development language used for Apple’s iOS. It’s also got a huge number of developers.
- Flash apps will be first-class citizens. Although Flash owner Adobe has tried to get developers to create desktop Flash apps — that’s what AIR is about — the most common place for Flash is the Web, particularly Web video. With the Playbook (and future BlackBerry phones), Flash app will have access to core functions like email, contacts, location, and IM. This will make Flash apps more like first-class citizens — equivalent to iPhone or iPad apps — and get developers excited to build more of them.
- Consumers know Flash. Apple’s lack of support will eventually turn into a liability for the iPad.
Schauer also noted that RIM does much more than Apple to help carriers, and points to data compression as an example. The iPhone is a huge “bandwidth hog,” says Schauer, but AT&T has been afraid to criticise Apple for fear that it might lose favour. By working more closely with carriers, RIM will have a better chance of getting them to promote and resell its products.
Lastly, Schauer says that RIM is aiming at corporate IT before consumers because that’s where it’s got the strongest sales channel, and where it faces the greatest threat from the iPad.
This seems like a risky strategy to us, as consumers tend to drive technology decisions much more than they did a few years ago.
But given that RIM is coming into the tablet market a year behind Apple, it may be the best approach available.
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