RIM Announces Playbook Tablet, Still Playing Defense

RIM has finally announced that its new tablet will go on sale in early 2011.  More importantly, the 7″ ‘PlayBook’ (formerly known as the ‘Blackpad’) will support Adobe Flash, finally giving me the hope that we’ll find out if Apple really keeps flash off of its devices for battery issues, or if Joaoaerbs just wants to keep web applets out of his iTunes/GameCenter ecosystem.

The initial version will have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections but will only be able to connect to cellular networks through a BlackBerry smartphone. RIM said it intends to offer 3G and 4G ready tablets “in the future.”

The PlayBook will run on an all-new operating system built by QNX Software Systems, which makes software used to run everything from cars to nuclear reactors. RIM bought QNX earlier this year, and has been working to adapt the software for mobile phones.

The move means RIM will have to juggle two distinct operating systems. The company announced its BlackBerry 6 operating system for smartphones in April, and rolled out the first handset running on it, the BlackBerry Torch, last month.

WSJ

Connectivity through your existing Blackberry phone sounds like a great idea from a data-consumer’s point of view, but they’re certainly not going to gain market share on Apple with a strategy that only appeals to current Blackberry users.  It should also be noted that, like most Blackberry products, the PlayBook seems to be geared specifically to enterprise.  They’re likely not trying pry loose Apple’s stranglehold over the consumer market just yet.  So despite demonstrations of video, photo, and e-reader uses, as well as its ‘play’ful name, I wouldn’t expect users to be loading it with games any time soon.

Although, if they so wish, and if the browser is strong enough, Blackberry fans could get their fill of gaming through the web since, again, the PlayBook will support flash.  The only difference is they’ll be getting that content for free, whereas Apple’s stonewalling of Adobe’s popular technology has afforded them the unique ability to charge up to $9.99 for games that we would have otherwise played free on the web.

The WSJ article also made no mention of the price point.  It’s certainly a tough question, and it’s entirely possible that RIM hasn’t decided where to position the device in terms of pricing.  To make an Apple comparison again, the iPad can easily be sold at a loss because of the implied revenue they expect to make by selling apps, much like Microsoft has done with their Xbox.  The money is in the software (games or otherwise).  But without a robust developer base, you can’t count on app sales as a revenue stream to keep the device afloat.  In that sense, and with an entirely new OS, the Blackberry faces the same uphill battle that Sony did when they launched the PS3.  The console is certainly a very capable device (as I’m sure the PlayBook will be), but it struggled to gain traction for quite a while because developers shied away from its largely unknown architecture.

Ray Sharma, founder of XMG Studios, a closely held Toronto firm that develops games for the iPhone and Android platforms, was encouraged by RIM’s announcements Monday, but said it’s too soon to say whether his firm will begin developing games for the BlackBerry platform or for the PlayBook.

Mr. Sharma said the QNX operating system, while highly touted, is an unknown. By contrast, the Android system is on version 2.2, while the Apple OS is in its fourth iteration, he said. Mr. Sharma is also monitoring the progress of Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows mobile operating system, which will integrate with the company’s X-Box videogame system, making it particularly attractive for game developers, he said.

WSJ

RIM will try to compete for developers’ attention by waiving developer fees and attempting to streamline the app-creation process with a new development platform, but they are taking a significant risk with PlayBook, because of the enormous first-mover advantage enjoyed in this kind of product.  The quantity and quality of software is what will sell the hardware, and hardware sales attract developers in-turn.  It’s a chicken-egg situation that either results in a snowball-cum-avalanche or complete gridlock.  RIM is attempting to move the PlayBook by adding more features than Apple’s iPad, but they are features that do not offer the company additional revenue streams.  Connectivity through your Blackberry phone’s existing data connection means no revenue through sales of additional data plans.  And as I’ve already said, Flash support means that apps can run on the web instead of being sold in RIM’s version of the App Store.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the PlayBook was actually more expensive than the iPad, offering more features and more free content once you pay the upfront cost, and I don’t see that strategy dethroning El Jobso.  So where’s their edge (and you can’t feed me the BBM mantra anymore!)?

The stock market doesn’t appear to see one, as RIMM shares are trading down about 3% today while the broader market hovers around neutral to slightly positive.

[Wall Street Journal]

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Jobs: I’m a Little Busy Being God Right Now, Please STFU

Over the weekend, some whiny girl who wanted some comments from Apple so she could write a killer article on the use of iPads in academia got an iSock stuffed her mouth when Jobs responded, “Please leave us alone.”

She needed the company’s input for an article she was writing on the topic.  But her repeated phone calls and voicemail messages to Apple’s media relations department went unreturned.  So she wrote to Jobs himself. “The completion of this article is crucial to my grade in the class, and it may potentially get published in our university’s newspaper … I have called countless times throughout the week, leaving short, but detailed, messages which included my contact information and the date of my deadline. Today, I left my 6th message, which stressed the increasingly more urgent nature of the situation. It is now the end of the business day, and I have not received a call back. My deadline is tomorrow,” she wrote.

After Jobs replied that “Of course, she naturally went on to blame her problems on other people, just like everyone else in this country.  She wrote that Apple was hypocritical for being a company that does so much for students (presumably the thesis of her article), yet doesn’t “responsibly handle the inquiries of professional journalists on deadlines.”

Thankfully, Steve Jobs’s sense of self-importance is pretty spot-on and he replied:

“Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”

Awesome.  Hilarious girl thinks that the face of modern American entrepreneurship should write her paper for her.  She could probably even avoid failing out of school if he manages to give her few quotes that could make her article worthy of a D+.

sjobs@apple.com: “We have over 300 million users and we can’t respond to their requests unless they involve a problem of some kind. Sorry.”

Chelsea Kate Isaacs: “I AM one of your 300 million users…Please, I am on deadline.”

sjobs@apple.com: “Please leave us alone.”

-All quotes from abcnews.com

Ironically, by being a bit of a jerk, El Jobso seems to have spoon fed her a far bigger story than she ever would have written otherwise.  But she’s also an idiot because he told her exactly how to get their attention: claim to have an issue with a product.  You have to be creative in this business to get noticed, lady.

Why Not? Chuck Klosterman Essays to Follow iTunes Model

The New York Times is reporting that Scribner has decided to give the iTunes model of selling individual songs for $0.99 a try in their line of work.  After all, any wannabe musicologist knows that the record industry was born of the publishing business.  And who better to captain the flagship than my favorite essayist, Chuck Klosterman.

Mr. Klosterman, the best-selling author of “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” and “Eating the Dinosaur,” has written on culture, music, sports and media, and collected a diverse following of readers along the way. The plan to publish his essays individually was hatched more than a year and a half ago, said Susan Moldow, the publisher of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster whose list of writers includes Annie Proulx, Laura Bush and Frank McCourt.

“We thought, it’s a shame not to follow the iTunes model here, because you have all these essays and they’re all on different subjects and we could recast them,” Ms. Moldow said. “It harkens back in a funny way because for Fitzgerald and Hemingway, the best thing that could happen to them would be that a story was published in Life magazine or The Saturday Evening Post or The New Yorker. The idea of stories being sold in individual units is as old as stories.”

NYT

Gotta say, this makes a lot of sense.  I don’t own an e-reader myself, but if Apple and Amazon are fixin’ to make them the new iPod, which I imagine they are, it would be an absolute shame to not follow the model that revolutionized the music business earlier this decade.  There may even be room for a subscription model in there too, (depending on the productivity of the writer of course), where you can plunk down a certain amount once you’re sold on the author and know you’re going to want everything he writes in the future – like buying his books ahead of time at a discount and getting them automatically on your e-reader the day they are released in print.

Klosterman’s books are great collections of essays and I recommend all of them.  Easy reading that doesn’t sacrifice intellect or humor but is abundant in both.

Thanks to Jared for knowing I would love this.

Follow Chuck on Twitter @CKlosterman.

Apple Patches PDF Exploit

Apple went ahead and patched the exploit that made one-click jailbreaking with JailbreakMe possible, since the security hole leaves users susceptible to much greater evils than the ability to power-use their $500 gadgets.

Apple is hustling to issue a patch for a milestone security flaw that makes it possible to remotely hack —or jailbreak — iOS, the operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch.

Security experts expect the pattern that has come to dominate the PC world to begin to permeate smartphones. Bad guys continually flush out new security flaws in PCs, then tap into them to launch malicious attacks. Good guys, meanwhile, scramble to patch and block.

USA Today

They forgot to say, “Dark knights find holes in the system and use them to give you control over your device.”  Luckily, the patch won’t stop the iPhone dev-team from continuing to do that.

@MuscleNerd: hah 🙂 redsn0w from June http://is.gd/eduZD can still JB 4.0.2 for iPhone3G and ipt2G(non-MC) ONLY (point it at 4.0 IPSW)

Anyway, it’s probably for the best, since an exploit that allows remote control of your phone could make some pretty sensitive information vulnerable.  Probably best to update and then use redsn0w to re-jailbreak. ultrasn0w can now also carrier-unlock iPhone 4, making it usable on other GSM networks besides AT&T.  Hit the dev-team blog for info/downloads.

Follow MuscleNerd and/or iPhone Dev-Team on Twitter to stay up to date with the cat-and-mouse game.