Recently, I had an opportunity to revisit the iconic PlayBook that dutifully serves my folks modest needs from a computing device. I have migrated to its newer cousin- Passport. However, it was refreshing to see how the current OS is heavily inspired from its precursor. With wake up by swipe gestures and true multi-tasking that was generations ahead of its closest competitors, I still remain in awe of this beautiful hardware.
It was revolutionary in terms of hardware specifications and the fluidity of its operations. Full HDMI output, video chats and the amazing BlackBerry Bridge that extended the device as a remote for the tablet, it was truly a delight! The solid form factor was comfortable to be held for extending reading. Unfortunately, it was butchered by the press- treading in unfamiliar waters, BlackBerry was at the receiving end for its poor execution of marketing and sales. It belied everyone’s expectations because it didn’t do what it was supposed to do- email and instant messaging. Although, they did extend BlackBerry Bridge to it along with native email functionality in the subsequent update, the damage was irreparable. The online trolls had crawled out of their closet to feed on the company and deride it by making baseless arguments.
However, Playbook has served me well for over 3 years. I owned and used a base 16 GB model that made ample sense given the free space for documents and media to be stored. The speakers still work flawlessly and small OS update bump was good enough to deliver the browser and flash updates. It was disappointing to note that it wasn’t upgraded to current BlackBerry 10 OS and therefore served as a dead investment; the last known update had brought in ability to encrypt the full contents giving it the ability to be deployed across the federal government institutions.
There is a strong use case for resurrecting the PlayBook. A larger form factor has been rumoured; some pictures had sprung up on online forums which claimed that BlackBerry was experimenting with the current OS installations. We haven’t heard or seen the actual pictures in the wild. The company has not proffered any explanation for the same. Possibly, in wake of other pressing concerns, the project was shelved because of the profusion of low cost players in the segment and that there has been no compelling argument and justification to pour in restricted resources for research and development. Further, the demand for a secure tablet is likely to fall short of projections with the current hardware manufacturers facing shortfall in the shipments and commoditisation of hardware with no differentiation. BES 12, now has the full ability to control the devices across the spectrum regardless of their operating system including the tablet devices. How would the PlayBook fit in the current scenario?
This is a tough question to answer. There’s a sea change in the capabilities of QNX based OS when it was released with the ability to run Android applications as well. Although Amazon Store is baked in the new 10.3.1 release for all devices, the experience can be choppy. Most users prefer to side load SNAP through Sachesi, that can make the use of Android applications and give in a near native feel. Further, the peek and flow gestures and unique UI has been refined across the newer generation of devices (Passport as my current daily driver is a case in point here). A larger form factor mated to the beauty of BlackBerry 10 OS would be a thrilling experience. It would make it a capable media device as well with incremental innovations in the sound delivery. Just look at Passport and it’s bloody good investment!
Its clear that BlackBerry makes the best hardware based devices on the planet with their years of R & D invested in the keyboard. Agreeably, the previous version of PlayBook’s touch screen experience offered no differentiator to its closest competitor- iPad. Yet, if you see the Z30 (my previous workhorse) with its in word recommendations, it would be a killer asset on the larger form factor.
The attractiveness of hub and exchange with real time sync of email and calendar to my email service provider (on my custom domain) is a real life-saver. That’s the only way, I have my email and calendar synced to the multiple devices and laptops that need to be synced once in a while for local mail retrieval. I prefer to use Blend than the outdated native email client on Apple Mac (that is a a huge pain in the butt to make it work). PlayBook would deliver it all. Mobile and Flawlessly!
BlackBerry has accumulated enough experience to deliver natural goodness of embedded microphones that adapt to the ambient noise to BBM that allows for screen sharing and collaboration. This is extended to BBM Meetings, a paid option for the enterprises and a newer version of PlayBook would be a far better option than the current hardware for conferencing needs. PlayBook would also be important for a rich display of applications, like presentations through BlackBerry Express and real time display of medical information. Personally, I would love to see the genomic browser displaying the genetic details of the patient in all the high definition glory. Paired to the image server and that would offer a rich playground for interacting with real time push of radiological images as well making diagnosis of the emergencies a breeze. Imagine the ability to launch BBM Meetings/ BBM Video through the screen, a proper file manager to locate the files/ images to be shared and larger screen Playbook would be at the centre of mobile health collaboration.
BlackBerry is disruptive to the markets. Personally, I have no clue why the mainstream press is hell-bent on spreading lies and canards about a company that truly innovates in it’s class- as a mobile messaging application (BBM), a mobile conferencing solution that is light years ahead of its competitors (BBM meetings), mobile device management (MDM) for the devices that is certified for deployment in the most secure and private installations, a real time operating system (QNX) that binds it all through its rich interactive user interface unparalleled on the habitable part of the universe.
BlackBerry should strongly consider their input on developing the device for its mobile health care forays and is likely to find a use case scenario in the niche industries where in they would be happy to deploy it.