Playing with the PlayBook

by Volker Weber


This is my second time with the BlackBerry PlayBook. First I had it for ten days to write about my initial impressions, but I quickly gave back the test sample so that others could write about it as well. Some time has passed, you read about all the good and bad, and it's time to revisit the device.

And there are a few things where RIM gets it absolutely right.

Before we get to that, let's briefly look at the market for these devices. It has been said, that people don't want a tablet. They want an iPad. I believe that's true. Then there are people, who want "better than Apple". They generally look for Android tablets. And then there was Palm HP with webOS. Well, ...

Where does that leave RIM?

There is a very good reason you want a PlayBook. It has the perfect separation of business and private use. You can hook it up to your BlackBerry if your admin lets you install Bridge, and he really, really should. Because Bridge does not export data from the BlackBerry to PlayBook. It just lets you look at it, and work with it. Somebody steals your PlayBook? Well, no business data on that. Since there is no business data on the PlayBook, your company does not have to worry a bit about what you do with your PlayBook.

This solves the #1 problem companies are facing with BYOD (bring your own device). If you own the device, or if the device contains both business and private data, under German law you can pretty much interfere with all policies business is trying to enforce. Not a problem with PlayBook. You can use Bridge apps to access your mail, calendar, addresses, internal websites, documents, etc. And all that data sits on your company issued BlackBerry and internal servers.

Since business does not have to lock down your PlayBook, you can pretty much do with it what you want. So, what is it good at? What does it do well? And what not?

First of all, PlayBook is pretty. The user interface is very, very well done. All the way down to great typography. It plays videos very well. You can easily transfer them across USB or WiFi, where the PlayBook is a server. You do it from your PC or Mac, unfortunately the PlayBook can't be the client. It's great for looking at photos and playing music. It has front facing stereo speakers, so the sound comes right out of the video you are watching. The screen is crisp, the PlayBook is light enough to hold in front you without getting tired. If you are on the road a lot, you should love the PlayBook as a companion.

Unfortunately, much of that beauty falls apart, when you get to viewing web pages, or when you are looking for apps. Font rendering in the web browser is bad. Most sites look like they are being viewed on Linux, and not like being viewed on a Mac. Most people probably don't care. I do.

If you are looking for apps, the situation is worse than it is/was on webOS. Nobody seems to care writing for PlayBook. I would neither. The thing is though, apps don't matter that much on a tablet as they do on a smartphone. In most cases you can just use the browser, as you would do on your PC.

Speaking of browsers, there are two. One connects through Wifi, the other through the BlackBerry infrastructure, most likely through BES. That's a bit confusing at first, but very normal for BlackBerry users.

What's badly missing? A native mail client for your personal mail. That's coming. People are talking about a release within a month. Video chat between PlayBook and non-PlayBook. You really can't expect people to buy two of those to connect home.

At vowe's magic flying circus, the PlayBook is holding up nicely against the iPad. Video is my favorite feature since you don't have to convert to an Apple supported format, and it's quite easy to load.

The big question is, now that RIM has solved the business side of the problem, how do they make you want a PlayBook. I will keep you posted.


ordered, YOU made me want a playbook (although i hate that stupid name...) "Effizienter arbeiten. Mehr spielen", this is also a just horrible Slogan....

Jürgen Gabel, 2011-08-30

I also tested the Playbook and I totally agree with you: from a business and security aspect it is a perfect solution when a company has a BB infrastructure already! I really liked it very much but still I haven't one, because for my work I don't need it (or any other tablet) - my Torch has all the functions I require and it works stable and reliable. And if I travel I still belong to the dying breed that wants to read an actual book or goes for a run in the evening :-) That's why I also don't have a tablet at home. If I would buy one privately it would probably be an iPad due to the number of apps you can get but again: Basically I don't need one or don't crave one at all (maybe because I am also not a Touchscreen person - I just don't like it - I want a keyboard!!! :-) ). So if my beloved Dell laptop at home should break down I would buy another laptop and not a tablet. But that's just me - I know a lot of people cannot be seperated any more from their tablets. I treated myself to a rather expensive racing bike instead... :-)

Gaby Spaszewski, 2011-08-31

No need to convert files for iPad with apps like xplayer2 lite or PlayerX - just use the File Sharing option in iTunes..

Tom Weeghmans, 2011-08-31

And those can play 720p and 1080p?

Volker Weber, 2011-08-31

@Jürgen: Beim Setup von Windows 95 hiess das noch "Mehr Spass und Entspannung bei der Arbeit" ...

Peter Meuser, 2011-08-31

@Peter: erinnere mich gerade zurück, ja, aber das hat ja noch einigermaßen gepasst und ist (c) by MS ;-) Aber "Effizienter arbeiten, mehr spielen", da frag ich mich, was denn jetzt ?!

Sei's drum, die ersten 24h mit dem PlayBook haben mich ernüchtert, mit WLAN in Zusammenhang mit einem DHCP W2K8-Server überfordert, erstmal DHCP am Router aktivieren, damit eine IP-Adresse zugeordnet werden kann. Verbindung zu zwei Blackys: wieder überfordert.... Neigungssensor scheint auch nicht der schnellste zu sein. GPS ?! Hat man in meinem PlayBook wohl vergessen anzulöten?! Internet-Modemfunktion über den BlackBerry mit Flat: Fehlanzeige, weil der via BlueTooth und Bridge verbunden ist. Ja. Soll vorkommen.

Aber nach dem Einschalten erstmal ungefragt 400 MB runterladen geht schon. Über welche Verbindung ist da egal, funktioniert schon irgendeine. Danach funktioniert dann aber keine mehr, nett.

Ich setz den PlayBook jetzt nochmals zurück und fang nochmals von vorne an, aber insgesamt: Ich nehm den iPad untern Arm, wenn ich ausser Haus gehe, PlayBook bleibt im Büro.

Mal schauen.

Jürgen Gabel, 2011-09-01

Also: DHCP war hier kein Problem. Zwei BlackBerrys auch nicht. Natürlich nicht gleichzeitig sondern wechselnd. GPS ist immer auf dem Modemchip. Kein Modem, kein GPS. Siehe iPad. Neigungssensor: die sind immer gleich schnell. Die Frage ist wie nervös die Software ist.

Und das mit dem Softwareupdate, das sollte eigentlich über Wifi gehen, oder?

Volker Weber, 2011-09-01

Das PlayBook enthält, obwohl kein Modem verbaut ist, ein GPS-Modul. Es ist schon ein paar Tage her das ich das letzte PlayBook upgedatet habe, aber soweit ich mich erinnern kann will das PlayBook das Firmwareupdate immer zwingend über WiFi laden. Ganz sicher bin ich mir aber nicht. Das nächste Update kommt sicher, dann teste ich mal ob das Update über eine BT DUN Verbindung funktioniert. Zumindest der Check nach einer neuen Firmware funktioniert per BT DUN Verbindung.

Abdelkader Boui, 2011-09-02

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