September 28th 2010: The date RIM revealed the BlackBerry PlayBook to the world, showing off a sleek, specially designed OS and giving Apple plenty to think about in the run-up to Christmas. At that stage, the Galaxy Tab was still in its holding pen, waiting to be released in late October 2010, while Android Honeycomb remained a gossiped about, but as-yet-unreleased tablet operating system.
Fast forward to March 9th 2011, and the PlayBook is once again in the tech headlines, with RIM and 7Digital announcing plans to bring the latter’s music store to the slate when it launches in the US and Canada. It’s not the first time the PlayBook has been pushed into the limelight by its makers: a number of 4G models have been revealed since January too.
But surely, the time for waiting is over. Rumours abound that the PlayBook will be released on April 10th, over six months since it was first announced. RIM is encroaching on Nokia territory here, announcing a flagship product and teasing it endlessly while others catch up. And make no mistake, the PlayBook faces far stiffer competition now than it did when it was announced.
The iPad 2 will be out by the time it’s unleashed. The Motorola Xoom is already up for grabs in the US. Samsung will reveal its third Galaxy Tab on March 22nd, while the HP Touchpad Wi-Fi model has apparently been pulled forward too.
RIM denied talk in December last year about battery issues delaying the PlayBook, but the fact it’s taken this long is a concern. Its Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Pardy, has recently left the company, with chatter abounding about his failure to give the PlayBook the necessary push it needs. Pardy used to work at Nokia, so perhaps it’s telling that the hold-up is somewhat reflective of issues that have dogged Espoo in recent years. It’s also a worry that few people have had a proper play with the PlayBook. It’s still very much under lock and key, wheeled out only at trade shows and special events, and then only briefly.
That leads us to question whether the PlayBook will ever take off at all. RIM was so confident in its success last year, taking pot shots at the iPad and being understandably chuffed with its new OS. Surely though, it could have foreseen that launching it in spring 2011 would have led to a clash with the release of the iPad 2? Even the most casual of tech watchers new Apple’s sequel slate was coming. The wait has been too long, and despite plenty of official hype, the fear has to be that the PlayBook will be DOA.