Tech critics are saying plenty of nice things about Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook, but nearly all the reviews end the same way: Don’t buy it.
The conclusion was predictable. Out of the box, the Playbook lacks native e-mail and calendar apps unless you’ve got a Blackberry phone nearby. There are hardly any third-party apps, and Android app support isn’t coming until the summer. In addition to missing features, some critics had problems with Adobe Flash (big surprise there), and others ran out of memory after running more than a few tasks at once.
But most reviews also note that software updates came in at a rapid pace, and many of the Playbook’s missing features will arrive in a matter of months.
Therein lies a problem with the tablet reviews of today: they all describe a product that may be quite different tomorrow.
These are crazy times for personal computing. While the last two decades have been defined by two operating systems — Windows and Mac OS — we’re suddenly seeing an OS boom thanks to Apple, Google, RIM and HP.
All of these operating systems are works in progress, more so than Windows or Mac OS. The difference in features between iOS 3 and iOS 4, I’d argue, is more significant than any new feature in Windows 7, and Apple’s updates were only a year apart.
That poses a unique challenge for tech reviews, which, if frozen in time, will quickly become outdated. This was true for Android on Motorola’s Xoom, which was criticized for buggy software, and it’s true again for RIM’s Playbook. Even Apple’s ultra-polished iPad took flak for its lack of multitasking, which was added with iOS 4.2 in November. The vast majority of reviews have not been revised accordingly, and I’m guessing RIM’s Playbook will suffer the same fate no matter how many updates RIM releases.
That may be fine for the tech-savvy. We keep up on the latest developments, and when the Playbook adds native e-mail and calendar apps, it’ll be common knowledge among gadget lovers. But future tablet shoppers who rely mainly on product reviews will read of drawbacks that no longer exist. Up-to-date reviews of tablet software are hard to find.
I’m not trying to discredit the reviews that are out there. RIM deserves the criticism it’s getting, and reviewers shouldn’t soften their verdicts based on a vendor’s promises. But given the rate at which these baby operating systems are evolving, tablet reviews need a fluid system to match.