Dan Frommer at Business Insider wrote a scathing attack article on the BlackBerry Playbook citing only a few proof points as evidence – a troubled third party development environment and a weak user experience. Although these two are THE critical elements that have to be right.
Dan did point out that there seems to be zero evidence that there is a business tablet market evolving, much to the chagrin of the product trial (or is it lead) balloons from Cisco and Avaya. My research tends to agree with the idea that the tablet is a real personal device and although it may be purchased by the company for users, or purchased by users to be reimbursed by the company, it won’t be quite the controlled rollout that high prices demanded in the original PC or smartphones of the past decade. These things are so cheap now, it won’t matter and the boundaries between corporate-consumer will be software not device limited.
My concern was the need for a BlackBerry to make the PlayBook work. Always building a franchise on top of a franchise on top of a franchise doesn’t work. Rocky VI was written to try and appeal to people who hadn’t necessarily seen Rocky V… When you assume customers have to have the previous franchise, you are building a business on a smaller foundation (read house of cards). Some of my employers in enterprise communications systems made this mistake and sooner or later, they were selling their stuff only to the existing customers while complaining about weak penetration. It became a cold war since that’s what all the other vendors did too and most customers could never afford to replace their big boxes with stuff from the other vendors. Customers were waiting for a complete technology refresh which destroyed the boundaries of the old franchise.
In the same way, RIM needs to focus on building a spectacular platform that will appeal to lots of folks, many of whom won’t own a BlackBerry. Rees and Trout’s Law of Product Extensions (Law 12 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! ) shows the fallacy of brand extensions – consuming enormous resources yet producing less than stellar results. In the same way, I would encourage RIM to have the courage to rethink the PlayBook. It’s never to late to challenge the engineering and manufacturing team to deliver the product right the first time.