Thursday, 27 October 2011

Blackberry Playbook 2.0 O/S delay commentary

Some thoughts on the Playbook 2.0 delay, since it's topical. I think the 2.0 upgrade issue is embarrassing for RIM and will be bad for their relations with the developer community, but it’s a small part of a wider dynamic in the tablet industry. If you look at the distribution of tablet sales so far, it almost exactly follows the distribution of wealth in the population, which suggests that early adopters are buying as a luxury and therefore buying on appearance, brand and reputation as much as they’re buying on the technical features of the platform. Software is definitely a major part of the tablet experience, but actually the Playbook (or Android equivalents) are not significantly more or less user friendly than the iPad in this respect. Where all of the competitors are currently falling down is that they’re taking the iPad on head-to-head with high concept products at the same price point, but without the great marketing and retail experience that Apple offer.

So everyone is playing catch up in the tablet market and they need to shift their efforts a bit. The 7” form factor is a bit cheaper to make, mostly because the screen is such a major component of device cost, so you can offer a high quality device at a £200-£300 price point, rather than a £400-£700 price point. A data point for the price point thought is the mad rush to buy HP Touchpads when the fire sale began. That suggests to me that in some ways, RIM and Samsung had the right product (accepting that the latter was much too expensive), but were too early to market and got the marketing wrong – there wasn’t sufficient hype in the mass market to get take up. This is why I think Amazon will do very well with Fire now that 50Mn units a year are shifting and consumers are aware of the benefits of tablets.

RIM did, of course utterly shoot themselves in the foot by not offering native exchange integration on the Playbook at a time when many enterprises were moving away from Blackberry exclusivity into a hybrid environment and by not offering a 3G version to the type of user that needed it most. A side issue though.

Worth noting that I am a Playbook user as well as an iPad one. I was interviewed on this topic for Which was nice...

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