In defense of RIM and the PlayBook

Over the past week, a narrative has taken hold in which it has become fashionable to refer to the BlackBerry PlayBook as “vaporware”. This line of thinking comes mainly from Jim Dalrymple and has been further popularized by the normally respectable John Gruber. This is inaccurate on so many levels that I feel it is necessary to take a moment to defend RIM and the PlayBook.

First of all the PlayBook is not even late. From day one, RIM has said that the PlayBook would ship in Q1 of 2011, and unless April comes around without it being released, there is no weight to criticizing RIM for shipping the device late. Sure I (and many others) had hoped for a mid-February launch, but given what I have seen of the PlayBook’s progress so far I see no reason why a Q1 release would not be possible. (Right now I think that a March 22 release is probable). RIM is certainly cutting it close, but that is no reason to imply that they are not living up to their word. However even if the PlayBook does get delayed referring to it as “vaporware” is still inaccurate, as RIM has shown more then enough of it that there is no doubt that the product will come to market.

The second criticism is that RIM keeps announcing different configurations of the PlayBook, without having shipped any. To date RIM has announced 4 configurations, (Wi-Fi only, WiMAX, LTE, and HSPA+). Dalrymple refers to this as “three generations” despite the fact that such a description ignores all of the meaning behind the word. Given that this was the way that Apple’s first generation iPad was released, you would assume that an Apple focused blog would understand that, but apparently not.

The final criticism is in the large delay between announcing the tablet, and actually shipping it. However in this case RIM had no other option. The BlackBerry PlayBook launches with a brand new operating system, and as such needed to announce the device significantly ahead of time in order to give developers a chance to ready applications for the device. Last summer when RIM announced the BlackBerry Torch, it was in stores just 9 days later. Despite being a brand new form-factor and shipping with a new OS this quick turnaround was not a problem for developers because all previous code still worked. The same went for the launch of the original iPad, and various Android tablets. However with a 100% new OS RIM needed a longer lead time between announcing and shipping the product.