Blackberry Tablet Is Here, But Where Are the Apps?

Playbook hits the United States in April 19, but still is incomplete

By David Pogue

You see, I’m going to be honest. I know that the tablets are fashionable, that 2011 is the year of iPad clones and that all companies are eyeing this market. But, sorry, I’m not going to analyze all the 85 tablets coming to market this year. We’re only in April and I got Hangover of Tablets. I’m not going to analyze the Electrolux tablet, the tablet of Polaroid, the Kelllog ´ tablet s.

But the tablet from RIM, the BlackBerry maker, seems to deserve some attention. The world of technology seems to be really excited about it. He is called Plabook and will be available in the United States from 19/04, with prices of $ $500 (16 GB model), $ $600 (32 GB) and $ $700 (64 GB) (editor’s Note: there is no Playbook launch forecast in Brazil).

The iPad, of course, has 10 inches. But with 7-inch tablets also have their qualities. In theory, would give up to keep the Playbook in the pocket of a jacket. But, oddly enough, the machine is half an inch wider than a standard pocket. Who has defined this size should be barred from the launch party.
Still, the Playbook is visually beautiful and pleasant to use. The unit has rubber back, multitouch screen efficiently and appropriate weight (408 grams).

Software

The software is based on the QNX operating system, purchased by RIM partly due to your stability in industrial use (“runs on nuclear power plants,” says a product manager of RIM without realizing the irony, considering recent events).

In addition to the QNX, Palm and Apple have been involved in the project, but without knowing. The Playbook is full of ideas “borrowed” of competitors. For example, to delete or organize applications, the user holds the finger on the screen until the icons start shaking (Hello, iPad!). And to close a program the user moves a finger from the bottom of the screen towards the Center (Hello, Palm Pre!).

There is no button on the front of the appliance. At the top are the buttons on/off, play/pause and volume keys. To navigate between applications the user slides the finger on the wide black edges of the device, which occupy most of the screen.

A gesture up shows the icons of applications. Moves for left and right allow you to switch between open programs. A gesture down reveals the toolbar of the application open at the time.

Unfortunately, there’s no telling whether a given application’s toolbar. So some times I felt kind of silly to make the gesture down. Similarly, if the splash screen is full of icons, you can see others moving the finger up. But there’s no telling if there are more applications, since there is a scroll bar to indicate the amount of existing programs.

HDMI port facilitates presentations

But the Playbook has three features that its competitors don’t even dream of possessing at the time. The first: with an HDMI cable (purchased separately), you can connect the device to a TV or projector, something very good for PowerPoint presentations (apparently they still do that in companies).

The iPad does so, but TV screen is the same as the screen of the device. Already the Playbook can show two different images. On TV the audience see the slides, in the Playbook the user sees the traditional “glue” of the slides and thumbnails of each element of the presentation.

The second cool feature is on the use of pictures, video and music. Unfortunately there is a software to do this automatically. It is necessary to drag the files manually to the folders of the Playbook for each media type. But, after doing this once using a USB cable, it is possible to make this transfer through a Wi-Fi connection, without the use of cables. The Playbook takes wireless transfers even in a State of rest.

Finally, there is a cool feature called BlackBerry Bridge, which works through a Bluetooth connection. With the feature enabled, the Playbook becomes a “window” to the contents of a BlackBerry smartphone. Any content relating to email, calendar, calendar and instant message appears larger on the screen of the Playbook. And the connection is encrypted.

Another advantage of synchronizing the Playbook with a BlackBerry smartphone’s connection to the internet. The Playbook can access the web via 3 g connection from the BlackBerry. It is not necessary to pay extra for this kind of feature, as with the iPhone and Android devices in the United States.

The BlackBerry Bridge is a feature created for corporate users. As the connection between the devices is encrypted, network administrators of companies do not have to worry about security holes on your tablet. All the investment in data security in BlackBerry devices is also for the Playbook.

Owe playbook in email

But, are you sitting down? At the time, the Bridge is the only way to access email applications, calendar, address book and BlackBerry Messenger in the Playbook. The tablet does not have applications for these functions. Yes, you read correctly. RIM has just released a product in the BlackBerry line without email application (RIM claims that these applications will arrive in the second half).

To compensate, the device brings a version of the application Documents of Go. It allows you to edit Word files, Excel, and PowerPoint. And the tablet brings a cool browser and Flash support, something that the iPad doesn’t have. The cameras of the Playbook (3 and 5 megapixels) record videos with good quality.

Unfortunately, there is no application for video conferencing, a disadvantage in relation to iPad and Android. In addition, the tablet brings GPS, but do not have turn-by-turn navigation feature. So, in the area of maps the functions are limited to consult on the Bing Maps.

Lack of applications is serious problem

And that’s just the beginning. For now, the slogan of the Playbook can be “There’s no ´ app for that” (there are no apps for it). Any existing application runs on new system of the Playbook. Even the programs made for BlackBerry smartphones (RIM claims that an emulator of BlackBerry applications will reach the end of the year).

So, RIM decided to start from scratch with a unique application store for the Playbook. The company says it already has 3000 registered applications, in part because it gave a Playbook for any developer who wanted to create a program. But these applications will only be revealed next week (journalists with access to the appliance only had access to a slimmed-down, with a few dozen applications well weak).

Also worth mentioning that this Playbook only works with Wi-Fi networks. There is an option to use 3 g networks, as in Apple devices, Motorola and Samsung. RIM says that 4 g versions of the device will arrive by the end of 2011. (Editor’s Note: in Brazil there is still no standard 4 g networks).

Appliance will have to improve a lot

In short, the Playbook is fast, easy to use and has good design. But in the current version, is so incomplete that it is nearly impossible to analyze, let alone buy. It is worth remembering that the main competitor of the Playbook is the iPad 2, same price, thinner, larger screen and more than 300,000 applications.

Considering this factor, it makes sense to buy a handset incomplete, without email or calendar, no 3 g connection, no Skype, no GPS, no video conferencing application and no Angry Birds?

Also worth clarifying that to date, a few days before the official launch on April 19, the operating system is full of flaws and being updated daily. And the vital BlackBerry resource Bridge is still in the testing phase. He still doesn’t have important features like display attachments in emails or click on links included in messages.

If this is fixed, and if applications arrive, and if the Playbook survive the flood of tablets that should reach this year, maybe he can be among the winners of this market. For now, however, there are many features that are only in the ideas of RIM, but not on the device.

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