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  • A Tablet With A Case of Codependency

    The PlayBook will match the Wi-Fi versions of the Apple iPad, starting at $499 with 16 gigabytes of storage—albeit with a screen that, at 7 inches, half the surface of the iPad’s.

    Upstart: Tech/E-Commerce

    Walt Mossberg reviews the first tablet from Research in Motion, the BlackBerry PlayBook. It’s also the first major iPad challenger that isn’t based on Google’s Android system. It uses an all-new RIM operating system that’s very different from the familiar software in BlackBerry phones.

    Now entering the tablet wars: the BlackBerry PlayBook, a contender from Research In Motion, maker of the iconic smartphone.

    Unlike most tablets aiming to take on the iPad juggernaut, the PlayBook, which I’ve been testing for five days, doesn’t run on Google’s Android operating system, nor does it run on RIM’s own aging phone software. It uses a new tablet OS that is handsome and quick, and looks different from Apple’s and Google’s. I enjoyed the user interface.

    But that isn’t the biggest distinction between the PlayBook and the other tablets. This first edition of the PlayBook has no built-in cellular data connection and lacks such basic built-in apps as an email program, a contacts program, a calendar, a memo pad and even RIM’s popular BlackBerry Messenger chat system.

    To get these features with your $500 PlayBook, you must use it with a nearby BlackBerry phone connected to it wirelessly over a short-range Bluetooth connection. Once this link is made, these critical applications pop up on the PlayBook’s screen, via a system called Bridge.

    But these are essentially ghosts of the same apps on the phone. In my tests, I could use them from the tablet, where they looked nicer, and they did synchronize with the phone. But when I broke the connection, the apps became grayed-out and the data they held disappeared. It is all stored on the phone.

    This odd system, aimed at pleasing security-concerned corporate customers, doesn’t work with other smartphones. So, in my view, even though Bridge is a neat technical feat, it makes the PlayBook a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than a fully independent device. That may be fine for dedicated BlackBerry owners, but it isn’t so great for people with other phones. PlayBook owners with other phones must do things such as email and calendar tasks on the tablet using Web-based apps like Google’s or Yahoo’s via the PlayBook’s browser. All other phones can do is provide the PlayBook an Internet connection using their hot-spot features.

    The PlayBook, which goes on sale April 19, will match the prices of the Wi-Fi versions of the Apple iPad, starting at $499 for a base model with 16 gigabytes of storage—albeit with a screen that, at 7 inches, offers less than half the surface area of the iPad’s.

    RIM says it is planning to add built-in cellular data, email, contacts, calendar and the other missing core features to the PlayBook this summer, via software updates. But until then, I can’t recommend the PlayBook over a fully standalone tablet, except possibly for folks whose BlackBerrys never leave their sides.

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    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730104576260953631631640.html?mod=WSJ_Tech_LEADTop

    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Tech/E-Commerce

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