updated 02:05 pm EST, Mon January 17, 2011
RIM defends PlayBook need for mail tethering
RIM in an interview Monday defended its decision to let the BlackBerry PlayBook ship without independent calendar and e-mail features. Senior product manager Ryan Bidan claimed that it was a "great standalone tablet" and could work well even on Wi-Fi. The BlackBerry bridging simply made it better, Forbes was told.
"This is not a device that is reliant on a BlackBerry," Bidan said.
The claims nonetheless didn't address criticism that the PlayBook would lose core BlackBerry features without being tethered to a smartphone. In part to make the March shipping target while preserving BlackBerry-level security, PlayBook owners will have to also own one of RIM's phones to use most of what goes through its usual BlackBerry Internet Service, including BlackBerry Messenger. The web and third-party apps should provide substitutes in the interim, but the device could be set behind the iPad and a wave of Android tablets among home users that often won't have a BlackBerry.
Bidan did acknowledge earlier talk of a firmware update to add truly independent contacts, e-mail and messaging. He didn't confirm rumors of a 3G version in spring that could add the missing mail support. The new firmware would "come as the platform evolves," he said.
In the interim, the bridging requirement has been cited as a possible advantage, since it could keep the most sensitive information on a phone where the more publicly accessible tablet wouldn't have sensitive information.