iPad 2 Versus BlackBerry PlayBook
When RIM announced plans for its BlackBerry PlayBook, this new tablet initially looked like it could compete well with the original iPad, strongly appealing to businesspeople and current BlackBerry Smartphone users. After RIM's big PlayBook announcement, however, Apple quickly announced and then released the iPad 2 before the PlayBook actually hit retail shelves. And unfortunately, the PlayBook doesn't compete well with the iPad 2.
As of this writing, the BlackBerry PlayBook is available only in a Wi-Fi configuration for Internet connectivityto utilize this device and connect to the wireless Web, you must be within a Wi-Fi hotspot. What RIM calls the "BlackBerry Bridge" allows you to connect a PlayBook to the Web and sync data, but a BlackBerry Smartphone with a participating service provider is required.
The web browser built into the PlayBook is sleek and highly functional, but the tablet's 7-inch screen is a real drawback. Yes, it's an improvement over surfing the Web on a BlackBerry smartphone, but due to the smaller screen (compared to the iPad 2), you'll end up zooming in often on web page content that isn't optimized for a small-screen web surfing device, especially if you're holding the tablet vertically.
The PlayBook comes preinstalled with a nice variety of apps:
- Adobe Reader. Read PDF files on your PlayBook.
- App World. Gain access to the online-based App Store to purchase and download new apps.
- Bing Maps. Access maps, get directions, and find businesses via the Web.
- Browser. The PlayBook's web browser has its own unique user interface that's rather different from Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari.
- Calculator. A basic calculator app.
- Camera. Controls the PlayBook's two built-in cameras.
- Clock. A multifunction alarm clock, stopwatch, and timer.
- Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail. Access your email account hosted by one of these four services. If you want to access any other type of email account, you'll need to download that service's third-party app when it becomes available.
- Help. Accesses the PlayBook's built-in help feature and online-based support center.
- Kobo Books. Transforms your PlayBook into an eBook reader with which you can purchase, download, and read eBooks.
- Music. Manage and listen to music from your digital music library stored on the PlayBook.
- Music Store. Purchase and download new music to add to your music library.
- NFB. Access and watch streaming videos. (NFB is short for the expression "not for broadcast.")
- NFS Undercover. Demo of a slick racing car game from Electronic Arts.
- Pictures. Used for viewing and managing photos.
- Podcasts. Find, download, and watch or listen to podcasts.
- Sheet To Go. Access and edit Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files.
- Slacker Radio. Listen to streaming Internet radio.
- Slideshow To Go. Access and edit Microsoft PowerPoint files.
- Tetris. The classic puzzle game.
- Videos. Watch video content stored on the PlayBook.
- Voice Notes. A digital voice recorder.
- Weather. View extended weather forecasts for any location in the world.
- Word To Go. Access and edit Microsoft Word documents.
- YouTube. Watch streaming YouTube video content.
BlackBerry's App World offers far fewer really useful apps than are available for the iPad 2. At launch, the collection of apps available had a strong emphasis on games, online social networking, and other entertainment-oriented uses for the tablet, as opposed to organizational, productivity, vertical market, or other types of apps useful to business professionals. PlayBook app prices range from free to $14.99, comparable to iPad 2 apps.
Despite being much smaller, the PlayBook, which weighs .9 pounds, is not significantly lighter than the iPad 2, which weighs 1.33 pounds. Both PlayBook and iPad 2 boast a 10-hour battery life, but the actual time varies greatly based on how the tablet is used. Prices for the various configurations of PlayBook are also very similar to the iPad 2, starting at $499 for the basic tablet.
In terms of design, PlayBook offers a high-resolution screen, built-in microphone and speaker, and front- and back-facing cameras (like the iPad 2). It also features micro-USB and HDMI ports for connecting external peripherals. You won't find a USB port on the iPad 2. However, options for using these PlayBook ports to connect compatible accessories are still somewhat limited.
The PlayBook has the potential to become a highly useful tool in the corporate world, but only if third-party app developers support it by releasing powerful apps that cater to business users. For instance, though you can access, view, and edit Microsoft Office and PDF files from the device, you won't yet find a nice collection of general and vertical-market work-related apps for the PlayBook.
As of this writing, less than 100 PlayBook apps were listed under the Business category within the BlackBerry App Store, and some of those were simplistic apps, such as Wall Clock and Hourglass apps, two different tip calculators, and an HTML viewer.
Right now, the PlayBook is a wonderfully powerful, entertainment-oriented tablet that's great for watching movies, listening to music, playing games, communicating with friends via online social networks, and for surfing the Web.