While RIM’s PlayBook is late to market, and is receiving a range of positive to negative reviews, RIM has the benefit of a large and loyal user base. Don’t underestimate PlayBook interest in you enterprise just yet.
Apple extends iPads beyond iPhone users
A recent comScore report suggests that over 72.7 percent of iPad owners, don’t own an iPhone. As comScore claims, “Apple iPad ownership extends beyond just fanboys”. This, of course, is a great opportunity for Apple to grow its customer base in the smartphone, and potentially even laptop or personal computer arena.
At the other end of the spectrum, RIM’s PlayBook is decidedly focused on existing RIM customers, at least initially. To say these customers are, by in large, loyal to RIM would be a huge understatement.
According to comScore’s data, 17.5 percent of iPad users have a RIM smartphone. These are customers, like me, that RIM is more likely to lose when they decide to purchase a new smartphone. As I’ve said before, the only thing that keeps me a BlackBerry customer is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). I’m not updating my smartphone for fear that I’ll upgrade to a new BlackBerry only to have RIM announce that BBM is now available on an iPhone or Android device.
Excluding turncoats like myself, one can extrapolate from the comScore data that upwards of 80 percent of RIM smartphone customers have yet to make a tablet purchase decision, and could be swayed by the PlayBook or a future version of the device. Yes, some within this 80 percent have the option of selecting an Android tablet. But, there’s little in an Android tablet that would convince a RIM smartphone user to choose an Android tablet over an iPad. Said differently, if a RIM smartphone user is going to select a non-RIM tablet, chances are they’ll select an iPad.
RIM selling into the loyal 80 percent
So, for argument sake, let’s talk about this 80 percent of existing RIM smartphone customers and their future plans for a tablet.
A friend of mine won a PlayBook through RIM’s launch party contest in Toronto, Canada. She was able to bring three friends to the party, and I was one of them. Of the approximately 200 to 250 attendees at the event, I counted two non RIM smartphones over the course of the 3 hours we were at the event. Everyone else had a BlackBerry, and was feverishly BBMing, on Facebook or updating their twitter status throughout the night.
After using several PlayBook devices throughout the night, in case one was a lemon, and comparing with my iPad 2, I would say that the PlayBook software needs a little more time. This is not to suggest that the OS or browser is poor quality. However, both are lacking the fit and finish that a few more weeks of development would have afforded.
I am purposely not describing the issues I found. Why? Well, this is not a review of the PlayBook, and I’d expect them to be resolved in the next few software updates.
What’s more important is that my friends at the event, others using the device at the event, and even BlackBerry toting friends and colleagues who had yet to touch the PlayBook appear willing to look past the issues. Luckily enough for RIM, these prospective buyers aren’t drawn to the iPad 2 either.
Trust me; I’ve tried to preach the virtues of the iPad to my RIM loving friends and colleagues, to little avail.
The reality distortion field that RIM co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, once described around Apple and Apple products may in fact be occurring around RIM and the PlayBook.
At the Toronto PlayBook launch event, one user was wowed by the HD video capture and playback, which frankly put the iPad 2 to utter shame. Another couldn’t get over how fast the browser was. Another colleague used the recent revelation of iOS tracking a user’s location as, “just another reason I’m more likely to buy a PlayBook than an iPad”. Finally, to my surprise, many existing RIM smartphone users I’ve spoken to prefer the smaller size of the PlayBook.
For all the reviews about the PlayBook, existing BlackBerry smartphone users are still quite impressed with the device.
Whether they’ll purchase version 1.0 or wait for a future release is an open question. And yes, it’s unlikely that the PlayBook will draw in new customers to the RIM franchise, at least initially. However, keep in mind that RIM enjoys well over 60 million smartphone subscribers.
Don’t count the PlayBook out, just yet
Talking with several RIM staff, from their development team and developer outreach program, I left the event much more confident in RIM’s future than when I arrived at the event. They are also doing more with open source, which I’ll cover in a follow up post or interview.
While nobody said it in so many words, there’s a real sense of pride and scrappiness in what they’ve delivered and what’s coming, whether in the form of software updates or PlayBook v2.
The vast majority of RIM’s 60 million plus subscribers are eagerly waiting as well. Some will surely purchase the PlayBook v1 and want to bring it into the enterprise, especially if travelling.
Enterprises may be reluctant to adopt PlayBook v1. However, the great hardware specs mean that the PlayBook v1, with updated software, will be a great tablet for some time to come.