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The PlayBook: Is RIM's Blackberry Tablet Too Late?

According to the traditionally reliable Boy Genius Report, Research In Motion's (RIMM) PlayBook tablet will be out on April 10 -- almost exactly a month after the Apple (APPL) iPad 2. It was initially planned for Q1 2011, but even if it does manage to come out by the end of March, the PlayBook is sitting right in the shadow of the iPad 2. The bad timing and lack of apps could easily sink the PlayBook before it even gets out of the gate.

Worse release date ever
When it comes to tablets, Apple pretty much owns March: The iPad 2 was announced yesterday and will be available next Friday, March 10. The only company that could generate anywhere near the amount of buzz would be Nintendo (NTYDO), which is releasing its 3D mobile device on March 27, but had the common sense not to make a Wii 2 announcement right now.

If the Boy Genius Report is correct, RIM has missed a golden opportunity to establish itself in the tablet space. First, it had people interested when the iPad was its weakest: When it was at the end of its lifecycle. Comparing the old iPad to the new Playbook would have blown people away. It's unfortunate that it couldn't get the device out before the iPad 2 announcement and release. (Apple's Steve Jobs recognized the threat, which is why he pushed the iPad 2 availability from April to March.)

Second, come April, the Playbook's audience is going to be broke: It would have already shelled out the $499-plus for the iPad 2 or, if it wanted a Google (GOOG) Android tablet, it would have grabbed the $599-plus Motorola (M) Xoom last week. In other words, the proverbial Coke and Pepsi could already be established. RIM and the Playbook are looking like Mr. Pibb right now.

Regarding the release, Douglas McIntyre of Daily Finance says:

It's hard to understand why RIM would wait until after the release of the iPad 2 before launching its own tablet PC. It may be that the Canadian company has not yet finished the final design of the product, or that it's having trouble with its supply chain. Whatever the reason, Research In Motion lost the greatest chance it had to trump Apple's latest product.

No app plan
Apple has the well-supported App Store and Google has its chaotic, but open Google Market, but RIM doesn't have a clear app plan. It is becoming apparent that app support is key for customers, perhaps even more than specs.

As Robert Scoble says in Business Insider:

Move on to the RIM PlayBook. It didn't score with users as well as the Motorola Xoom and it doesn't have Google and its Android ecosystem behind it. So, I can't see anyway that it will [be more than an also-ran]. This means that developers won't develop apps for it. No apps, no sale.

Enough said. The iPad 2 may lack the power and the versatility of the PlayBook, but it has the mind share and the market share -- something RIM could have gotten a piece of if it were better prepared.

Photo courtesy of RIM

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