At a San Francisco event last September, Research in Motion the company whose BlackBerry phones rank among the most iconic gizmos of all time announced its first tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM played a splashy video about the device, detailed its features, and issued a press release laden with words like “unmatched,” “uncompromised,” and “unique.” The one thing it didn’t do was show off a working PlayBook presumably because the tablet wasn’t yet in any shape to be seen in public.
Seven months later, the PlayBook hit the shelves this week, one of the highest-profile contenders yet in the market pioneered by Apple’s iPad. I’ve been spending time with a unit loaned to me by RIM, and judging from my experience…it still isn’t in any shape to be seen in public. For every feature that works well right now, there seems to be one that’s glitchy, half-baked, or simply missing.
Some of the attractions that got me enthused about the PlayBook when I attended the launch still hold, starting with its compact size. Like Samsung’s first Galaxy Tab, it sports a sharp 7-inch touchscreen, giving it a paperback-like personality compared to the larger, more magazine-like iPad 2. There’s no such thing as one true ideal size for a tablet, but seven inches has its advantages: you can cradle the PlayBook in both hands and use your thumbs to swiftly tap your way around the interface, in a sort of modern counterpart to the thumb-typing that made the original BlackBerry famous.