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BlackBerry PlayBook hands-on – Update: Now with video!

BlackBerry PlayBookI just scored some hands-on time with RIM’s answer to the iPad: the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.  Unlike the larger iPad, the PlayBook sports a 7″ screen but a faster dual core processor.  The tablet’s construction feels good, as we would expect from RIM, and the touchscreen’s responsiveness is great.  The bezel is also active, although it will be interesting to see whether or not this is a good idea after sustained use.  I know I hold my iPad along the bezel all the time, and I wouldn’t want it to respond to my hand movements.  For example, to BlackBerry PlayBook 3bring up the open applications view, you swipe a finger upwards on the PlayBook’s bottom screen bezel.

What I saw was a pre-production unit, but the PlayBook’s performance was impressive.  Multiple applications were open and simultaneously active, even in the task viewer.  I would expect that kind of thing would be a battery destroyer, but it sure looked amazing.  The PlayBook seems to be aimed at either being a home multimedia tablet, or an add-on for a BlackBerry.  There didn’t seem to be a mail client actually on the PlayBook itself, and the BlackBerry rep said that the idea is to go to a browser to view email, or view it through a connected BlackBerry smartphone.

The PlayBook will share the BlackBerry App World, so I guess we might see dedicated email and other messaging apps coming out for the tablet.  However I’d really like to see some dedicated messaging apps, as well as a promise of thousands of apps coming soon for the PlayBook.  It’s launching in March, and if it’s just going to be positioned as an internet tablet with a BlackBerry hook-up, I fear it may get crushed in the consumer space by the iPad, and the wealth of apps that will likely start coming out for Android Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola Xoom.

Here’s the video of what went down…

Neil Berman

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Jan 6, 2011 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hands-on with the BlackBerry Torch 9800

BlackBerry Torch 9800 slide-out keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 slide-out keyboard

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 has been eagerly anticipated by BlackBerry fans for a long time, but early reviews have left some disappointed.  After getting some hands-on time with RIM’s latest smartphone, here are my initial impressions:

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Build quality and looks

The BlackBerry Torch is small and well formed.  This smartphone could have been a large brick, but it’s almost the same size as a Bold 9700.  The Torch is slightly thicker but at a glance the two BlackBerrys share very similar dimensions, which is remarkable when you consider that the Torch has a slide out keyboard.  The Torch feels as solid as one would expect from an enterprise class BlackBerry.  Fit and finish seems to be top notch and the sliding keyboard has a satisfying click when it engages.

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 alongside Bold 9700 keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 alongside Bold 9700 keyboard

A BlackBerry is only as good as its keyboard, and the one on the Torch is okay.  Since it has to slide under the main body of the device, the keys cannot be raised as high as the Bold 9700 or 9000 and consequently it can be hard initially to type quickly.  The Palm Pre and Motorola Droid have the same issue and each of those smartphones handled the problem in their own ways; the Pre has little bobble keys and the Droid went completely flat.  The Droid 2 has adopted slightly raised keys, similar to the Torch 9800.  I did find that typing became fluent after a few minutes but the edges of the chassis, as with the Palm Pre, do sometimes get in the way of quick typing.

There’s also an on-screen keyboard, with which I really struggled.  I couldn’t get into any kind of fast and accurate typing rhythm with the on-screen keyboard, and always reached for the hardware keyboard when I became too frustrated.

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Touch screen and general speed of operation

The Torch has a regular glass touch screen, unlike the Storm which has SurePress to register screen inputs, and for general navigation and opening apps I found the touch screen to be perfectly responsive.  Much hasbeen said about the Torch being slow due to the extra demands of OS 6, but in my limited time with the Torch I didn’t really experience slowdown issues.  I don’t feel that the OS makes efficient use of touch in the same way as Apple iOS or Android, but RIM has created that issue for itself by releasing the Torch with an OS that is also destined for its non-touchscreen devices like the Bold 9700.  So the touch efficiency of OS 6 only goes so far before it feels like an add-on.

Neil Berman

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Aug 14, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RIM caught between a rock and a hard place

RIM has increasingly found itself in the crosshairs of governments who want to have greater insight into BlackBerry data traveling across RIM’s bespoke network.

While other platforms tend to rely more upon less secure cloud services for content, the BlackBerry platform routes email, BBM and some other traffic through RIM’s network. This has the advantage of keeping it safe from prying eyes, but some governments are worried the internal security issues of not being able to view that data.

Without its strong data privacy and encryption, RIM’s BlackBerry would be a far weaker platform in the Enterprise space. Ironically in some of those emerging markets where governments are challenging RIM, having data privacy at an Enterprise level is all the more important since there might be fewer internal corporate controls regarding information dissemination, compared to more developed economies.

So while Enterprises in those countries are likely to be highly reliant upon privacy to guard their internal knowledge and competitive advantage, they are likely to lose some of that privacy if a country’s security is believed to be at risk.

What does this mean for RIM? Tough times ahead. I’d say it’s pretty certain that as more countries jump on this one it will become increasingly difficult for RIM to maintain lock and key over its data network. That doesn’t bode well for RIM’s competitive advantage at all.

Neil Berman

Aug 8, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment

Today in 2015: The Big Three rule the smartphone market

This article is a fictional work of my overactive imagination depicting how the smartphone market might appear in 2015.  Don’t count on it turning out this way…

Ah, how time flies!  It feels like only a few months ago that Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 Series and fans lined around the block for Apple’s iPhone Evolution, yet five whole years have passed since then.  During these telling years the smartphone market has truly evolved.  Vertical platform integration, wider corporate adoption and growth in the tablet market have been kind to Microsoft, Apple and Google at the expense of the RIM, Nokia and Palm.

With the benefit of hindsight it should have seemed obvious that as vertical platform integration improved, the smartphone market would come to resemble what used to be called the desktop computing market.  In the last five years the Microsoft, Google and Apple smartphone platforms developed such successful …continue reading

Mar 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Windows Phone 7 Series analysis vs iPhone, Android & BlackBerry (update: now with video!)

Windows Phone has been struggling in recent years.  Facing an onslaught from Apple, Google and RIM, many would say that the OS formerly known as Windows Mobile has not even been competing in the current marketplace.  Rumors have been flying around about Microsoft starting from scratch with Windows Phone 7 Series and that’s exactly what they’ve done.  And they’ve done it well. Continue reading our in-depth analysis…

Feb 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

RIM, Apple winners in 2009; Windows Phone suffers

The recently published ComScore stats give RIM good reason to celebrate the holidays, and tell an interesting story about the US smartphone market overall. These stats show two clear winners this year in the form of RIM and Apple, while the company losing out was Microsoft which experienced a stagnation of Windows Phone users.

RIM’s user population seems to have skyrocketed this year, increasing from just under 10 million in February to almost 15 million by October. Apple also saw a big gain from 5 million to just under 9 million during the same period. Meanwhile Windows Phone tread water throughout the year around the 7 million mark, as it waits long and hard for Windows Mobile 7. It’s also worth noting the Google number, which represents Android. While the numerical increase from around 400,000 to just over 1 million may not seem significant, this platform increased its user community by over 100%, which is a phenomenal growth figure.

What I find most interesting about the RIM figures is that corporate purchasing was probably pretty low this year. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if corporate subscription growth was negative in the first half of 2009 due to companies terminating the BlackBerry accounts of fired employees. So this increase in RIM’s numbers this year tells me that it must be growing its retail consumer population successfully. If my analysis is correct then this is great news for the BlackBerry platform, which has traditionally been perceived as a corporate device. Perhaps the Love What You Do campaign has been more successful than I gave it credit for in a recent podcast!

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 18, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Microsoft, Mobile, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neil Berman now also posting on BerryReporter

I’m now contributing to BerryReporter :-)

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jul 14, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton@CES – Blackberry Curve 8900 announced and fondled

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Blackberry’s Curve has been a popular smartphone to date, balancing size, weight and features to good effect.  The new Curve 8900 seeks to capitalize on its predecessor’s success, adding a 3.2MP camera, a Bold style screen and revised keyboard.  The new Curve 8900 is due to be released in the US in February on T-Mobile, although with EDGE data only unlike the Bold which offers 3G on AT&T.

Gallery…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 10, 2009 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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