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back to article RIM PlayBook strikes back at Jobsian internet dream

"Amateur hour is over," reads the RIM PlayBook ad inside the Office Max shop around the corner from The Register's San Francisco bureau. As I walk by, looking for a printer cartridge, RIM tells me that its new PlayBook is the world's first "professional-grade" tablet. That's not the most original line in US advertising history, …

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FAIL

Just 'Flash'

"RIM is making a big point of this in the US TV ads it's running for the PlayBook, where the company loops the infectious chorus to Queen's Flash (sing it with me) "ah-ah, savior of the Universe!""

No, sadly, they're not: they're actually just looping the bit of it that goes "Flash!"

Every time I see that commercial I keep waiting for the "ah-ah, savior of the Universe!" bit...and it _never comes_. Curse you, RIM.

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Anonymous Coward

Berners-Lee only likes the DRM Jobs dislikes

So Tim Berners-Lee imagined an internet with architectural diversity where data could run free with DRM encumbered Flash content but would reject the DRM encumbered Kindle content? Uh huh, sure.

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Escape route overdone

Very good review, except for over-playing of the playbook somehow offering of an escape route from proprietary tech. I sense the argument here was motivated by ideals rather than reality. The only advantage the Playbook offers in terms of additional openness is Flash, which is er, closed. And the argument that Flash makes it somehow closer to Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the open data web because it is ubiquitous is simply a bad argument. I don't think on the same argument, the iPad for example, is going to become magically more open just by virtue gaining market share. Also the other argument about the benefit of Kobo is a non argument since Kobo also is available on iOS, so I'm not sure how less choice and a subset of iPad functionality re:eReaders can be argued as a benefit. But these are minor quibbles and the sentiment that "open is good" isn't, I think, a bad thing, even if the arguments given don't quite make the case that the Playbook is more open than the market leader in any truly meaningful way.

Of course we've all (most of us reading tech blogs anyway) heard of the Blackberry bridge constraint. The most surprising other negative to have jumped out from reading this review for me though is the limited battery life. RIM really have to get that sorted. For me that tips the balance to the point where the Playbook becomes a clear fail. It's a shame, because from what I've seen there is a lot in there to love. Blackberry are going to have to work really hard to get version 2 hardware out. The B-Bridge restriction can be repaired with an update. Not so battery life.

So in summary It sounds like a supermodel with a severe case of acne, bad breath and the clap. Lot's of potential, but come back a bit later love.

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Dead Vulture

The vision of Tim Berners-Lee

Has NOTHING, NOTHING to do with Flash.

It's about open data, not having it enclosed in a proprietary container be it widely used or not.

That's like saying a web made up of Word documents would follow TBL's vision. It doesn't. It's ridiculous to even suggest this.

If you want to poke at Apple's Flash stance find a better example rather than writing this garbage.

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Facepalm

Agreed

I almost spat my sandwich onto my laptop when I read that. To be honest, I sort of skipped the rest of the article on the basis of that comment alone.

Tim Berners-Lee's current big thing is the semantic web. How on earth does a closed source proprietary plug-in help with the semantic web? AC's suggestion that this would be like a web made up of Word documents is absolutely bang on.

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Agreed

If anything, Apple's aversion to Flash websites is closer to TBH's ideal than the other. Though of course much of the rest of their work isn't ;-)

The point about the number of Apps in the Apple App Store is a good one too: iThings need apps because they're limited in full-personal device functionality without them... that and they're a lovely closed shop revenue stream.

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Interesting article...

I was a little confused by the app compatibility issue. runs RIM's own OS but it runs Android apps, but only from RIMs store ... and there aren't many apps there yet.

So does it run standard Android apps, or do they need to be adapted in some way?

(Disclaimer: I'm an iPad 2 fanboi) But I suspect the battery life is going to be a bit of an issue for professional use. Is it coincidental that Job's stated (if not actual) reason to ban Flash is based around its power consumption.

Finally, while it would be nice to have Flash, I'm not sure that citing Flash support as giving you the Web as TB-L would want it is *quite* right. He's not a notable Flash proponent, from what I understand.

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WTF?

Why Playbook has NO NATIVE APPS from 3rd parties, JUST JUNK GAMES

I double-checked the BlackBerry Playbook developers' page just now:

- There is NO information about the Native Development Toolkit. None.

- There is NO information about porting Android apps to PlayBook. None.

- There IS info about developing using web specs (HTML) and Flash/AIR.

Enterprise developers essentially NEVER write apps in Flash/AIR, although they may use it in data display, etc. on their web pages. Some apps can be written in HTML; it's about the same as if you were on a website but you wouldn't want to do complex database searches, incorporate photos, or fine-tuned interaction/response.

RIM has apparently worked with a few devs, e.g., FaceBook, to write native apps on the PlayBook but unless you have privileged access, “sorry” is the best response you can get.

Third-party apps are mostly web games ported from Flash to Flash. At least they're easy. The quality, speed and capabilities are all limited.

RIM has big plans for PlayBook apps, but they are NOT working with 3rd parties or in-house developers to build “real” apps of the sort that Android and Apple users take for granted. So this is a non-starter for the Enterprise, and a non-starter for consumers.

RIM seems to have an honest, hard-working and smart Developer Relations guy but he's hobbled by working for co-CEOs who dismiss apps as "tonnage" and utterly fail to appreciate how valuable developers are to RIM's business. Apple had to learn this the hard way (developers were stunned back in 2007 when Jobs said no tools), but learn they did.

Until native and/or Android toolkits are available to developers, there will be thousands of junk games, but zero expense tracking/reporting systems that Enterprise types (myself) depend on. Zero video editors to allow putting your kids' birthdays on FaceBook. Zero third-party mapping, or any other consumer or business apps. Just junk games.

Nobody needs the hundreds of Fart apps that run on iPads. (I've counted them.) But nobody can work on a platform that has zero true productivity and consumer apps in virtually ALL the major categories.

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Slight misnomer

CEO: "We want a serious, professional-grade tablet for the high powered executive types in the business world."

Marketdroid: "Sounds good. Why don't we call it the Playbook?"

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A title

The Playbook runs on QNX - which is a unix compatible system. Android apps are written in java. Therefore all that is needed to run an android app is java support, which QNX supports,s o getting the apps to work is trivial. However, getting them to the device requires some way of accessing an app store - google at present does not allow the playbook to access the Google App Store (which could easily be fixed via a Playbook client), so instead you need to get them from the Blackberry store. This requires that any developer re-submits their app to Blackberry for inclusion in the store.

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Anonymous Coward

Er, Gavin

"all that is needed to run an android app is java support, which QNX supports, so getting the apps to work is trivial"

Hardly. It's not as difficult as building from scratch, but integrating the Android libraries can hardly be called trivial. I know, I do this kind of thing for a living.

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@chris 3

Chris

You are damned right Flash will be a major contributor to battery drain. What is often missed by tech publications is that Apple's tighter control over multitasking and ban on third party code interpretation ensures they can maintain a very tight control of the run loop. Their policy on video ensures pretty much all video viewed on the device is hardware accelerated which is much more power efficient. The multi-tasking design ensures apps which fail to conform to a tightly defined multi-tasking profile get terminated. The profiles whilst constraining still however allow you to do pretty much anything you would want to be able to do with multi-tasking, you just have to obey the rules and design your app to be a good citizen. And the policy on third party code interpreters (e.g. They aren't allowed) ensures Apple maintain adequate control over the application run loop. If the run loop is a black box running on a thread, as it would be for e.g. Flash, there is no way to be able to balance performance with control, which leads to either a bad user experience or a drain on the battery because apps don't have to obey the power and performance efficiencies Apple mandates.

The design of iOS recognizes a simple truth in life. If you put a bucket of money in the middle of the street and put a sign over it saying, this is a common resource which everyone can use, but please be respectful and only use what you need - people don't. This should be born in mind by end users whenever they read any developer criticism of Apple's constraints. Developers are on the side of taking resources from the bucket. But the bucket owner isn't Apple. It's you. It's your tablet.

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Hulu

Hulu blocks the playbook browser for licensing reasons (supposedly). It's not a technical limitation:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=hulu+blocks+playbook

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Hulu Plus

Hulu Plus over this side of the Atlantic runs USD$7.99/mo and allows accessing Hulu content (including premium content) on devices other than PC's.

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Linux

Flash is open

I was under the impression that the Flash format was now open, but Adobe's player was not.

Depends on how you define open. Do you mean the "standard" or Adobe's implementation?

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Gold badge

Open

Properly open in terms of a data format or media format should mean the standard is available licence free, no patent threats and if you're really serious get it ratified by ISO as a standard.

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Troll

The solution seems simple...

If you want to get any real work done, use a real work machine, like a laptop.

Stop messing around with these toys.

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Thumb Up

airline pilots use them....

I think airline pilots do 'real work', so now airlines are trailing iPads in cockpit and the pilots love them. It's not a 6lb laptop, with dual core CPU's etc, but it does help them with their real work. Same goes for doctors, lawyers etc.

The tablet is such an interesting market, it clearly is not all things to all people, but it can be some things to some people. I guess in some ways it's an extension to the laptop/desktop computer, but with extreme portability and excellent battery life thrown in.

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WTF?

Sorry, did I read that right? No email client???

If this machine has no email client out of the box then how exactly is it a business "professional grade" machine?

And I disagree with the assertion that flash support is necessary to make the web what it's supposed to be. The iPad can display web sites pretty damn well, and not many serious web sites require flash. Not many flash applications will work properly with touch screen input for a start. And the web isn't always ideal for a 9.7" or 7" screen, especially for interactive applications so special versions would have to be built anyway. Be they altered web sites or apps - it doesn't really matter to the end user.

I'd much rather have no flash, but the ability to run all day on one charge. A modern machine that lasts just 24 hours on standby is a bit of a joke. And two hours heavy use? Come on RIM, that derisory!!!

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Re: Sorry, did I read that right? No email client???

"and not many serious web sites require flash"

iPlayer, TVCatchup, YouTube, Hulu... to name just a few. All of which have had to create apps or alternative mobile sites just to work with iPads. PlayBooks support the site by default, without forcing the developers to create a workaround site.

Personally I'd take a machine that supports flash over one that doesnt, so you have the option if you need it. If flash proves to be too big a drain on the battery, simply dont visit flash enabled sites, or disable it via the menu!

Oh, and as for the email client - it is due to be released soon, dont worry.

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Facepalm

I blame Shockwave, Gabocorp.com and idiots who think a bit of simple animation make things cool

"iPlayer, TVCatchup, YouTube, Hulu... to name just a few. All of which have had to create apps or alternative mobile sites just to work with iPads."

Can't help thinking you are missing the point here. These websites that you mention have created iPad / iPhone versions of their sites but I would argue they built them to take advantage of the hardware visiting their sites and the sheer number of users / requests for the sites to be altered. They were not 'forced' to do anything.

If you were on your flash enabled device and you visited a website that had 'mouseover' events that were required to navigate around that site, how would you do that? Given there are no mouseovers on a tablet (Unless RIM have created a system that can tell where your fingers are without them actually touching the screen).

As a developer I can say that working with Flash is more of a pain than tailoring sites to work with HTML5 and h264. Plugin detection is a dark art in itself and guess what? You still have to have in place a non flash version of the site content for people who god forbid don't have flash enabled. It's been like that for years.

I'm glad you would pay $100 dollars more than the going rate for an inferior device in so many ways, just to exercise your right to have a battery draining technology that you admit you would disable. I'm loving your logic.

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Flash Sites

The main public-facing website for the company I work for is entirely Flash/Flex-based. However, having gone to the great trouble and expense of developing this front-end, we're currently building a jQuery/Ajax replacement, simply because we're not expecting Flash support to be ubiquitous on devices we want to support in the future. Also, the Flash site is impractical to modify. I'd rather support a non-flash-based device than hope some unknown device will support my rigid Flash-based system.

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FAIL

Schizoid Machine?

If I read this right, the PlayBook is just great if your desire is for a web portal limited mostly by its 7" screen size. Bit of an issue for the NYT, for example, but doable.

But if you like to watch movies on airplanes, there's no content and insufficient battery life; if you read on the train, your vendor doesn't even list the #1 best selling fiction in its Best Seller list. You likewise have me-too, feature-stripped versions of music, no TV, photo library/editing, etc. I'll be generous and give it a bit above zero on the consumer feature score.

Worse, if you're a corporate type (as am I), there are only a few, RIM-supplied productivity apps; missing are the expense reporting tool I rely on, the note-taker, the drop-boxes, etc. And there are no practical tools for my IT department to build custom apps or briefing books or standards manuals, unless you just dump them into a PDF.

In other words, a 90% on the web, a 15% on consumer apps (guaranteeing no "BYO" devices in the enterprise), and a 10% on supplied corporate tools (more sometime soon) and a pure zero for custom Enterprise functions.

Sure can't figure out why a quarter million people wanted that mix of features.

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Grenade

weirdly schizophrenic review

1.5 pages of apps vs cloud/net Apple bashing switches to a page of describing the lacklustre Playbook app support? Make your mind up! Or better yet, remember apps aren't just about consuming net content, the net isn't just about running cloud services or 'apps' and flash is as often the problem as any sort of solution.

Still, the whole ensemble does give a probably realistic view of a device with more value in the Blackberry logo than it's tablet implementation. RIM: must try harder.

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the "app divide" can be turned to their advantage?

"we don't leave you to find the odd nugget in hundreds of thousands of apps. we only offer you apps that *we know are great*. So, one mapping app, one train time app, one [etc etc]. Don't spend your days endlessly installing apps that turn out to be no use. We guarantee all the apps on Playbook" [or something like that] -

- yes, I know techies would much prefer the Apple environment of loads of apps in every area (heck, some of you even prefer *Android*, where most of the apps are unusable for anyone who isn't a techie) - but to normal people, they just want it to do each new thing, reasonably well and reasonably easily, without having to spend forever trying to evaluate a dozen alternative options (there's a reason that there aren't a dozen Contacts apps to choose from).

</marketing>

<apologies>

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Ha!

"- yes, I know techies would much prefer the Apple environment of loads of apps in every area (heck, some of you even prefer *Android*, where most of the apps are unusable for anyone who isn't a techie) - but to normal people, they just want it to do each new thing, reasonably well and reasonably easily, without having to spend forever trying to evaluate a dozen alternative options (there's a reason that there aren't a dozen Contacts apps to choose from)."

I can honestly say, that of the iPhone owners I know (no small number at this point), the techies spend by far the least average amount of time playing in the app store. This is only an average, of course, but it's a big enough difference to be very noticeable. Actually, the "normal people" seem to be the ones who spend the most time enamored with their new toy, playing with it long after most techies would have figured out what they wanted installed and switched to "it's just another tool" mode.

-d

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Jobs Halo

Can't be Jobs free browsing...

if it's based on webkit! :D

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Stop

Some info

A few points about the facts: 1) Playbook does have a Facebook app;

2) In US dollar terms, a 16gb Playbook costs the same as the 16gb IPad2; IPad 1, if you can still find one, sells for $100 less.

You could verify the facts and update your post accordingly.

Thanks.

John. C

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Re: Some info

It just shows how ill informed the journalist is, and discredits the whole article imho. The Facebook app has been out for weeks, yet this article was apparently published yesterday.

Also makes no mention of the fact angry birds and native email clients will be released shortly...

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Facebook

You mentioned Facebook didn't have an official app - but they do. They released a nice update for it about a month or so ago. Much better then the Android version.

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Anonymous Coward

So many site full of flash games

With so many site full of flash games like addictinggames, newgrounds and Armor Games, it might be reasonable to add the number of free flash games to the app count for any tablet that is able to run flash.

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Serious question

Why in the hell did they call it the PlayBook?

When I first saw the name I assumed that it meant they were going for a consumer-friendly device. And while this isn't consumer-unfriendly, its success seems to be pegged on business. Who might be inclined to turn down a purchase request for a "PlayThing".

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Anonymous Coward

American term

Playbook is a term for the book of "plays" an American football coach may carry around. Often used in a business strategy context.

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Silver badge

might make sense to Americans

but to the rest of the world it sounds like a games machine. Playbook makes as much sense as a games console called a workstation would.

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FAIL

Everyone in the world is American

I didn't know playbook might have any other meaning than something to play on. So here's yet another company who thinks that in countries other than the USA (I mean "in international"), we must either not count, or speak American. Sorry RIM, but Playbook means something to play on, and not a business tool!

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Stop

Wrong country...

*sigh*

RIM isn't an American company, it's Canadian. Canadians tend to get upset when called Americans. Americans also tend to get annoyed when bitched at over something that we (as a collective entity) didn't do - after all, it isn't like the world doesn't have plenty of valid things to complain at America over.

Anyway, while this marketing blunder is the sort of thing I would expect from an American company, in this case. it isn't. It's a marketing blunder from a Canadian company. So, as South Park once suggested, I would suggest that you "Blame Canada."

-d

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Dead Vulture

Jesus H. Corbett

"One reason that the iPad needs apps is because Flash isn't allowed and because Flash is so pervasive online."

Seriously, do you guys ever make use of this thing called 'memory'? Recall, if you can, 2007, when Jobs introduced the original iPhone. Every developer out there was screaming about the lack of a native API. Apple had thought that everyone would develop web-apps, much like with the Palm Pre. Completely open. But no, developers wanted access to the native API's so badly a jailbreaking scene erupted. And now, Apple has built the only profitable App store, and somehow it's all the fault of not supporting Flash, a technology that only now, with dual-core mobiles, can be technically used. I say technically, because all that 'pervasive' Flash stuff on the internet can't be used on a device that has no mouse or keyboard.

Idiot

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History

It's called reinventing history. It happens a lot these days.

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It is not the lack of apps

It is the lack of email and crap battery life that stops corporations from buying this.

We don't need Angry Birds. We need a tablet that can handle Exchange emails in a SECURE corporate environment. Period, full stop. Add those things and it will outsell iPads by at least twice.

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Gold badge

iPad

Surely that is the reason iPads sell so well? they don't cock it up and leave out such essential features. Not to mention generally better battery life and the price being cheaper or the same as the competition, oh and a 3G version from launch, not "coming soon when we can be bothered".

Flash isn't that essential, if it was then it would have been available in the browser as a plugin for smartphones 5 years ago instead of just emerging from beta now. Standalone Flash lite players don't count.

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Missing points

1. Why are you using the mobile version of Gmail? You can use the full version easy.

2. Yes there is a Facebook app, and it the first Tablet to get one.

3. Nothing is suck on your playbook as it shows up as network share, meaning it work for Mac, Linux, Unix and Windows, even when it's powered off. That's why you get more battery drain that the IPAD which does nothing. You can copy movies over your wireless network while watching another movie and then outputting it to your TV using the HDMI cable, and then also surf the net, because you can display one thing out on the HDMI and display something totally different on the playbook. Yes you can do all 3 things at the same time and when the move finishes copying, it just shows up in your play list. You try sync 30gig of movies on your IPAD... it sucks, and you can do anything while it doing it.

4. My Playbook lasted 3-4 days without a charge... would have been longer, but it's hard to not want to play with the playbook.

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Thumb Down

Disinformation is not nice :(

> 2. Yes there is a Facebook app, and it the first Tablet to get one.

This is misdirection at best, and an outright lie at worst. While it is technically true that Facebook has not released an "official iPad" Facebook app, they have had an iPhone Facebook app for sometime which they keep regularly updated. As you would expect, this app runs just fine on an iPad.

So, in essence, the iPad has had a Facebook app since before RIM's Playbook was ever released. I won't make any claims as to relative quality between the two apps (I neither own nor have easy access to a Playbook, and I don't use Facebook, so have no real standard of what to expect from a "Facebook app.") However, to say that the Playbook is "the first tablet to have a Facebook app" without even a nod to the iPad is more than slightly disingenuous.

-d

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Browser

"The web seen through the PlayBook's browser: What would Tim Berners-Lee think?"

Apart from anything else, i'd imagine he might be thinking "why the hell is the browser using up 40% of the screen for non-content ?"

I love QNX dearly, but this tablet sounds like a right pigs ear.

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Welcome

Pretty good review...

I own a Playbook which I am quite happy with, after trying the rest I think it is the best tablet out there right now for the basics: web browsing, video, and general speed/stability, with bonuses if you already own a Blackberry phone. Honeycomb 3.1 will probably solve the current Android tablet issues, and WebOS is intriguing and seemingly quite similar, but those aren't available.

Agree with the bemusement about the ad campaign, they should be focusing on the strengths of the device rather than throwing rocks at glass houses from inside a glass house.

Few quibbles though.

The complaint about a few hours of battery life is not what I've experienced, I always get a day out of it even with 3-4h of solid use. Standby time is not infinite as the wi-fi is always on - a current quirk with the OS which has positives and negatives. Positive being that you can share files with it easily over wi-fi which the author must not have known about, and which will be really good when the promised DLNA support is added. http://www.blackberry.com/btsc/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=KB26068 .

Would be nice if that would be configurable though.

Lack of 'native email' is always one that gets me scratching my head, as Blackberry email requires a specific telco operator data plan for BIS or BES service, and this is just a wi-fi model. They could easily have provided a simple POP/Outlook email client, but that would have be misconstrued as 'secure Blackberry email', which it isn't. Fault them for being slow on releasing the 3 and 4G models that will connect BIS/BES, but 'native email' doesn't seem like a valid complaint.

Oh, and there is a Facebook app, if that floats your boat.

Overall, a good tablet, which is getting better with frequent OS/app updates, but also needs to get better to keep up with the competition.

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Lack of native email - enterprise security

The Playbook is designed to be used in conjunction with the inevitable BB smartphone already in use. The enteprise email is locked down and is only synched to the Playbook. The user can do everything with the emails except natively send/receive. The secure Blackberry Bridge is used to link the BB smartphone and the Playbook.

I am not endorsing the device or the process, this is an explanation based on vendor training.

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Megaphone

Battery life

The reason of your poor battery life might have to do with the Video chat app. A lot of playbook users have had the same problem. the solution, however, is very simple. Just start the app, and accept e agreement. That's it. The battery life is pretty good, it could last a solid 8 hours of continual use.

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Anonymous Coward

Who gives a crap about

Apps? 350,000 apps? Are you kidding me? Why is having 350,000 apps a good thing? I can't even think of 350,000 things, let alone apps.

As far as I can tell only people who don't have anything better to do spend all day downloading and playing with apps.

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Jobs Halo

Adobe's fault, not Teh Steve's.

Repeating things over and over does not make them true.

Steve's famous rant against Adobe came after waiting _years_ for them to deliver a working IOS version of flash. (for that matter, a working Mac OS or Linux port would be nice. Just saying.)

When they finally gave him one, it was as buggy and CPU hogging as the rest of their non-windows implementations. Also, the UI still thought it had a mouse attached.

Hands up, anyone who's used flash on a touchscreen and found it intuitive.

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Boffin

More facts wrong

You mention a "thumb drive" for transferring files, but the USB port is not currently used for that, so that was never an option for you. On the other hand, you also just said you need BlackBerry Bridge to transfer files between your PC and PlayBook, which is wildly false. You can transfer directly over either WiFi or USB, both by accessing the PlayBook as a (Samba) network share. That's far easier than using a thumb drive or the bridge (and the bridge isn't for use with your PC anyway).

Also, the battery life issue you had is certainly the known issue with not having accepted the Video Chat app's agreement. Yes, it's a silly, stupid bug for them to have let out, but battery life is far better than the 3-4h you got as a result. I get a solid 7-8h each day, possibly longer. Note that an idle/sleeping/standby PlayBook, even with WiFi enabled, will last on 6-7 days.

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