Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the once-ubiquitous BlackBerry mobile handset, is under a lot of pressure these days.
It runs a proprietary mobile platform at a time when Apple's iOS and Google's Android are dominating the smartphone market, with Microsoft's WP7 predicted to make a big run and HP's webOS positioned to make inroads into the enterprise market - BlackBerry's traditional strength.
There's much speculation about whether BlackBerry can survive at the third, fourth or even fifth mobile platform and the lack of exciting handset launches in the past year have added to the sense of atrophy at the company.
One launch RIM will have been hoping would get it a bit more positive buzz is its belated entry into the tablet market, in the form of the BlackBerry Playbook. It uses a new OS called QNX, and appears to be targeted at enterprise users, but initial reviews have not been great.
The WSJ called it "A Tablet With a Case Of Codependency", pointing out that the first version has no 3G connection and that much of the functionality you would reasonably expect of it, such as email, contacts and even BBM, only gets activated when you connect to a BlackBerry handset via Bluetooth.
The NYT also asked "Where are the apps?", rubbing salt into the wounds by opining: "the PlayBook's motto might be, ‘There's no app for that.'" Ouch! The arrival of Andoid phone apps might alleviate some of this problem, but the PlayBook's dependence on another device seems to be the major negative from most reviews. Engadget concurs that this product is only really of interest to BlackBerry fanboys.
In an interview with Bloomberg, RIM co-CEO Jim Basilie defended the suggestion that the Playbook is an unfinished product. "I don't think that's fair," he said. "A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry." Free? Last time we looked the base model costs $500. The market itself wasn't too put off with the reviews, however, with RIM shares down 1.66 percent yesterday.
There may be many reasons why it's Basilie, rather than the other RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis, that has been put forward to defend the Playbook. But we suspect one of them is the latter's apparent exasperation with the media as demonstrated by him cutting short a recent interview with the Beeb's tech editor - Rory Clellan-Jones - when he didn't like his line of questioning.