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]

Advertisements

Waaa! British are Pussifying Us Too

What’s it like drinking tea while riding on a high horse? It must be especially difficult if you’re also retarded, but don’t take my word for it! Ask British defence secretary Liam Fox, who is calling for a ban on the popular war game Medal of Honor, errr Medal of HonoUr, because its multiplayer mode makes one team the Taliban [BBC video interview].

[British defence secretary] Fox is of course pissed that the game’s multiplayer mode allows one side to fight as Taliban insurgents against ‘Mericans – sorry, coalition forces. Many in this noncontroversy have gone out of their way to take offense (sigh,offence) but Fox gets special commendation. He’s assuming that because one of the multiplayer maps is set within Helmland province, where U.K. forces are based, this explicitly means the game’s killing British troops.

“I am disgusted and angry. It’s hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game,” the man who is not the network said. “I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product.”

Kotaku

JEBUS, man way to make us look like a bunch of ninnies.  That kinda shit may fly in England, but over here that’s how you wind up fishing your tea out of Boston Harbor, bro.  And has anybody heard of the 1st Amendment over there? To be fair, I can’t single out England, it’s no better over here.  Everywhere you turn there’s someone calling for a ban on something.  Like maybe we should just legislate our way to harmony?  Ban everything that isn’t cotton candy and double rainbows? Isht don’t sink so.  It’s like no one ever read those books that they made everyone read.  Are they not making them read the same ones these days?  Maybe Fahrenheit 451 is banned now, in which case I’m all out of answers.  My head is just spinning like a top.  Bottom line: we’re pussifying ourselves enough over here in the States, we don’t need your help on this one.

Oh, and by the way.  There aren’t even any British forces in the damn game, so stay the hell out of my free market.

BBC via Kotaku

BOOMSHAKALAKA! NBA Jam HD Looks Like The Most Fun Nobody Will Have

In an effort to show you how out of touch they are with their consumers, EA Sports decided to bundle the heretofore Wii “exclusive” NBA Jam remake as a free download for Xbox 360 and PS3 users who purchase their pro ball simulation title, NBA Elite 11.

The game will be downloadable with a free one-use code included in new copies of NBA Elite. The 360 and PS3 version get three modes – Play Now, Classic Campaign and Online Play. It doesn’t have the Boss Battles under the Wii’s Remix mode, but it does have online multiplayer, which the Wii doesn’t.

Kotaku

Well that’s great, but there’s one little problem.  There’s not a single person out there on this blue marble who actually wants NBA fucking Elite 11.  The biggest basketball fans I know don’t even play that garbage.  They’re too busy with Madden.  The basketball game most dear to everyone’s heart?  Of course, it’s 1995 Midway classic NBA Jam.  But don’t insult the gamers, EA.  We may be emotionally stunted and immature, but we’re not retarded.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is ponying up $60 for the pile of shit that is EA’s basketball simulation just to get at the free arcade bonus you decided to throw in there.  ESPECIALLY since the lesser of 2 evils that is NBA 2k11 is getting a unique game mode dedicated to His Airness.  One of two things will happen:

1. Gamers will rush to buy NBA Elite 11 for the download code and return it before major retailers start paying attention.  It’s hard to believe the world’s second biggest games publisher could overlook this scenario (but who knows).  More likely is

2. No one will buy NBA Elite 11 and within 3 months, EA will release NBA Jam on the XBLA Marketplace and PSN as a $10 download.  Personally, I can’t wait.

Madden 11 Kicks Off Tomorrow

How could I have forgotten this is last night’s post about the glorious baby steps towards football season taking place this week?  EA Sports will bring out their annual offering of digital football on the second Tuesday in August, as they always do, and promises to present a simpler rendition than we’ve seen in years.

I’m guessing if you’re the kind of person that ponies up the $60 for Madden every year, that might sound pretty awful to you.  But as the gaming industry continues to grow, we’re seeing a lot of developers focusing on mainstream appeal.  It’s just the sad fate of entertainment, much like the music industry has congealed into a homogenous lump of mainstream shit.

Madden NFL 11 arrives tomorrow to the marketing drumbeat of simpler, quicker and deeper. Laudable design goals, but for a game that’s been a living room ritual for a quarter of a century, let’s also ask, is it more fun?

Yes. Though we’ve heard all spring and summer about Madden’s new play-calling, faster game times and richer, more exciting presentation, this year’s show-stealer comes from an unexpected place – a true fundamental. You know, the kind of thing everyone always says a sports game should get right before worrying about anything else? Well this time, Madden did.

Kotaku Review

As much as I love football and video games, I fell off the Madden wagon back in 07 and haven’t bought another version of the game in this console generation.  If stripping away the hit-sticks, QB cones, and even turbo (*gasp*) will make the game more fun, I’m all for it.

IGN Review