RIM's Rumored 10-Inch Playbook: A Bigger Mistake

Research In Motion is rumored to be launching a 10-inch LTE tablet in addition to an updated 7-inch PlayBook this year. The information comes from an alleged RIM road map that leaked, with the N4BB blog sharing the details. After nearly a year of dismal BlackBerry PlayBook sales, I’m not sold that a 10-inch tablet is the best idea for RIM.

Before explaining why, let me preface my points with an opinion on the current PlayBook tablet. I like the form factor because I’m a big proponent of 7-inch slates; I have used one daily since December 2010. And what the PlayBook does, it does very well.

What it doesn’t do still features an outstanding issue. The Playbook lacks a native e-mail client and doesn’t have the breadth of available applications found on competing devices. RIM had planned to address those issues in a software update last year, but has delayed until next month. At the Consumer Electronics Show, I finally got a look at the updated software, and the e-mail app impressed me. However, the Android app player was still a no-show in my demo.

Even if RIM were to address the software issues in February, a problem remains: Weak tablet sales aren’t going to entice developers to build apps for the PlayBook. Instead, mobile apps are appearing for platforms that are selling well and offering a broad user base for potential app sales. Think iOS and Android.

Can a 10-Inch Playbook Vie With IPad?

Another challenge? If RIM creates a 10-inch PlayBook, it will compete directly against the best-selling tablet: the iPad from Apple.

At 7-inches in size, RIM has a differentiating factor, although it priced the smaller tablet at large tablet prices. By creating a 10-inch slate, RIM will have to have to answer the same question 10-inch Android tablet makers have struggled with: Why buy those devices instead of an iPad, which has a stronger ecosystem?

BlackBerry Messenger isn’t the answer. Even if it were, an updated BBM client isn’t even in the BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 software. Consumers are buying low-cost tablets, so a 10-inch slate won’t likely meet their budgets, especially if it comes with an LTE data-plan contract.

IDG yesterday reported that 91 percent of business professionals are using the iPad for work communication. That means, to an extent, that the enterprise finds Apple’s tablet safe and secure in the workplace—a perception enjoyed exclusively by RIM for years. Simply put: If RIM creates a 10-inch tablet, what is the device’s intended audience and are its needs already better served by an alternative?

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