Can BlackBerry's new Playbook overpower the Apple iPad?

Posted by erlan | Posted in smartphone | Posted on 20-04-2011

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One of the more unusual aspects of the upcoming tablet from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is the fact that users need to synch their BlackBerrys to it to fully access their email, calendars and memos.

The hotly-anticipated BlackBerry PlayBook launches tomorrow in the US, with an India launch expected in about a month. But does this newfangled, QNX-powered device really trump the boatload of Android tablets and more importantly, can it hold a candle to the might of the Apple iPad? Let’s try and shed some light.

The year 2011 is turning out to be the Year of the iPad Clone: every company and its brother is rushing one to market. But I’m sorry. I’m not going to review every one of the 85 tablets that will arrive this year; it’s only April, and I’ve already got tablet fatigue. The BlackBerry tablet, though, seems worth a look. The tech world’s been hyperventilating over this thing. It’s called the PlayBook, and it’s a seven-inch touch-screen tablet ($500, $600, and $700 for the 16, 32 and 64-gigabyte models).

The iPad, of course, is a 10-incher , but seven has its virtues. It’s much easier to hold with one hand, for example . In principle, you ought to be able to slip the PlayBook into the breast pocket of a jacket – but incredibly , the PlayBook is about half an inch too wide. Whoever muffed that design spec should be barred from the launch party.

THE PLAYBOOK’S VIRTUES

The PlayBook looks and feels great: hard rubberized back, brilliant, super-responsive multitouch screen, solid heft (about 420 grams). Its software is based on an operating system called QNX, which Research In Motion , the BlackBerry’s maker, bought for its industrial stability. (” It runs nuclear power plants,” says a product manager without a trace of current-events irony.) Nor is QNX the only other company that lent a hand. Palm and Apple were also involved, although they didn’t know it. The PlayBook software is crawling with borrowed ideas.

For example, to remove or rearrange apps, you hold your finger down on one app icon until all icons begin to pulse (hello, iPad!) . And to close a program, you swipe your finger upward from the bottom bezel to turn all app windows into “cards ,” and then flick one upward off the screen (hello, Palm Pre!) . There are no buttons on the front at all, and the top edge has only On, Play/Pause and volume keys. Instead, you navigate by swiping your finger from the black border, which seems unduly wide, into the screen itself. Swiping upward reveals your app icons (and turns your apps into “cards” ).

Swiping left or right cycles among open multitasking apps. And swiping down reveals an app’s toolbar, if it has one. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing beforehand if a toolbar exists , so you often swipe futilely and feel silly. Similarly, if app icons completely fill the home screen, you can swipe upward to reveal more – but you won’t know if there are more until you swipe, because no scrollbar appears beforehand to let you know there’s more below the screen.

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