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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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

Introducing Clayton Carmine: the New Rookie in Delta Squad

Gears of War fans were treated to a new unveiling this week at Comic Con, when they were introduced to the third member of the Carmine family.  For those unfamiliar with the character and/or game, Carmine is basically the video game equivalent of South Park’s Kenny McCormick.  Continuing the legacy of Carmines in the Gears of War franchise, Clayton Carmine will play the role of “the new guy” through the first act of Gears 3 when it launches in April 2011, before he is undoubtedly torn to shreds by some behemoth monster.

But wait, there’s a twist!

With a little cash and a big heart you might be able to save Gears of War 3’s rookie from certain, gruesome death.

Starting July 29, players can purchase avatar gear on Xbox Live marketplace to determine the fate of rookie Clayton Carmine. All proceeds go to the Child’s Play Charity. If you want Carmine to die just purchase a “Carmine Must Die” shirt for your avatar. If you want him to live buy the “Save Carmine” shirt.

Kotaku

Touche, Epic, but we all know that Carmine must die.  It is his purpose.  The character exists to let the player that there’s hardcore shit up ahead when the seasoned veterans don’t bat an eye, and to introduce bosses or epic gunfights with comic relief by being the first one to meet his gruesome doom.  It’s a plot device, and it’s perfect the way it is.  The last thing we need is another guy hanging around just to throw one-liners out there.

Although, I gotta say the guy does look significantly more badassed than his cracky-voiced, shaky-handed brothers, so maybe he does have a chance at making it through the game after all.  I mean, look at him going all Mortal Kombat on that Grub.  Dude may be a frosh but he’s ripping throats at a graduate level.  Head over to Kotaku for more pics of Carmine in action.  Gearsofwar.xbox.com also has a video of Cliffy B’s demo at E3, which shows off some of the new features coming to the Unreal Engine in GoW3.

Kotaku << Epic Games

Lots of Goodies for Gamers at Comic-Con

Speaking of Comic-Con, fans of the Xbox 360 will have their fill of gaming next week in San Diego, where they’ll get some hands-on time with Microsoft’s most anticipated offerings of 2010.

Microsoft brings out the big guns at the 40th annual Comic-Con International, with a line-up of panels and playables featuring Kinect, Gears of War 3, Fable III, Halo: Reach, and more!

Things kick off on Thursday, July 22 at the Xbox 360 booth on the show floor, where fans will be able to get their hands on Halo: Reach, Fable III, Gears of War 3, and the Summer of Arcade titles for Xbox Live Arcade.

The highlight for me here is obviously Gears of War 3, cuz I ain’t no punk-bitch.  You Spartans go ahead and fawn over Gaylo as much as you want. Fable players, don’t forget to check out the Real Touch review I just posted.  And if you’re truly itching to invest in a Kinect, I’d suggest you think long and hard about the pros/cons of your girlfriend taking over your Xbox.  Remember how you never wanted to share with your little brother? If you though Mel Gibson sounded ridiculous screaming about the Jacuzzi? Wait until it’s you yelling at your girl about how you need to get back on Call of Duty for some ranked games.  BUT BLOW ME FIRST!!!

Kotaku