Blackberry® Playbook In Good Early Showing Despite Poor reviews

Blackberry® Playbook In Good Early Showing Despite Poor reviews
The BlackBerry PlayBook beat expectations by selling more than 50,000 devices when it launched recently, according to estimates from RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky. That puts Research in Motion’s first crack at the tablet scene ahead of Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab in regards to units moved on launch day. Several analysts said the strong first-day showing probably came from pre-sales to business customers already toting a BlackBerry smartphone, which is critical to access some features on the PlayBook.

 

In a research note sent to investors yesterday, Abramsky said he and his team checked with 70 different retail stores, including Best Buy, Staples, and RadioShack outlets, to ask about PlayBook sales on the first day. The team found a range of responses from light sales to 11 percent of the stores sold out, but overall leading to an estimate of 50,000 sold on opening day this past Tuesday, including presales.

 

The PlayBook has earned a fair share of negative reviews based on some of its current shortcomings. Abramsky believes some of those issues may be largely resolved through wireless updates and new 4G versions of the tablet that RIM is planning for later this year. Currently available in a Wi-Fi-only version, a 4G edition of the tablet is headed to Sprint soon. RIM is also planning 4G versions that can run on Verizon Wireless’s LTE network and the HSPA+ networks from AT&T and T-Mobile (PDF). For now, however, the company is running into some initial difficulties with both AT&T and Verizon.

 

AT&T has so far refused to support RIM’s Bridge app that lets BlackBerry users pair their phones with the PlayBook over AT&T’s 3G network. That piece is critical, as RIM has been touting the syncing capabilities between its BlackBerry phones and the new tablet.

 

The 7-inch tablet in itself is not a bad device by any stretch of the imagination in terms of build and operating system. Unlike Motorola’s Xoom — and the other Android tablets — there was virtually no interface lag to speak of. The multitasking was intuitive and the whole device just felt like a labor of love. The only problem is that It just doesn’t have the apps to back it up.

 

Research in Motion said 3,000 apps were ready at launch. But the iPad already sports more than 79,000 native tablet applications, and more than 300,000 iPhone applications that run on the iPad. Google is also pushing out a new version of its Android mobile operating system that is geared toward tablets as it makes a strong push into the tablet market — which will already have access to the more than 100,000 apps on the Android Marketplace. The PlayBook will support some Android applications, but none of them will be native — so they might face performance issues.

 

The PlayBook also still doesn’t sport a native email client and is missing a lot of other crucial BlackBerry features, like BlackBerry messaging and a calendar application. PlayBook owners have to connect the PlayBook with a BlackBerry phone with bluetooth wireless to gain access to those features. It’s largely for security reasons — but those missing features cripple the PlayBook when compared to other dominant tablets on the market like the iPad.

 

GMP Analyst Michael Urlocker downgraded Research in Motion despite the announcement, saying the BlackBerry PlayBook was not ready for the market due to missing features and a lack of applications. Apple’s iPad has so far sold more than 15 million units since it launched last April. New versions of the PlayBook that support various wireless networks should be out later this month — though no wireless providers have jumped on board with Research in Motion yet. So the PlayBook still can’t stand up in terms of sheer portability for tablet users that don’t have a BlackBerry smartphone to tether to the device.

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