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The two faces of the BlackBerry PlayBook

It's a stand alone tablet and a companion to a BlackBerry

RIM's tablet works very differently as a BlackBerry companion than it does as a stand-alone device. We look at the two faces of the PlayBook.

RIM's plan also is meant to tempt companies to (re)standardise on BlackBerrys, given that BES can't manage other devices; it's a ham-fisted approach to try to reverse the BlackBerry exodus now occurring in business http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobilize/the-truth-about-todays-mobile-user-499 .

You can of course use a PlayBook when not connected via a BlackBerry. You can run non-BES-provisioned apps and connect to the internet over Wi-Fi - just like with any tablet or computer - for web access and use of non-BES-provisioned email accounts, such as those using the IMAP and POP3 protocols. You can also run PlayBook apps not provisioned via BES; you can install personal apps and business apps directly on the PlayBook.

Worrisome to me is that RIM's execs can't yet say how non-BES-provisioned apps would be managed on the PlayBooks, for which there are no non-BES management tools. If you work in a hospital, a warehouse, or a maintenance hangar that wants to issue PlayBooks (but not BlackBerrys) and have specific apps on it for job-related use, you'll need to manually install the apps and hope employees don't add any more -- or so it seems at this point. That's no different than the situation with Android devices, but it's less management than Apple's iOS provides for the iPad if you use a third-party management tool such as Good for Enterprise or MobileIron.

So far, your choice with a PlayBook is management via BlackBerry or no management at all. When the BlackBerry personality is not active, you get essentially an Android-like tablet. My guess is that RIM will ultimately understand it needs to provide PlayBook models that can be managed directly by BES over Wi-Fi connections, but it could be a year or more from now before it gets there. Given RIM's constant selling of its high degree of control (if you use BES), it seems very odd to me that RIM is not offering that control to the PlayBook for the times you don't need a BlackBerry but want to use the PlayBook for enterprise purposes. Maybe security isn't that important after all, or maybe the PlayBook's enterprise utility is limited to the things a BlackBerry user would do.

As a result, the PlayBook's enterprise role is likely to match that of the BlackBerry (and be restricted to that diminishing pool of customers): for users who need the BlackBerry's unparalleled levels of security and management. That's proving to be a small subset, even at banks and other high-security environments, even though a RIM exec told me he believes the experimentation with Apple iOS and Google Android devices is just a phase that companies are going through as part of an exercise in consumerisation-driven experimentation that is sweeping businesses today. He also believed the perpetual need for high security and control that CIOs have will reassert itself and, by implication, everyone will come back to requiring BlackBerrys. Fat chance.

NEXT PAGE: Just another tablet

  1. The PlayBook has two faces
  2. Major worries
  3. Just another tablet
  4. Do the personalities complement each other?

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