Wednesday, May 04, 2011

RIM Updates PlayBook and Partners with Adobe, IBM

BlackBerry World is in full swing in Orlando, Fla. So far, Research In Motion has announced a partnership with Bing in search, and deeper relationships with both Adobe Systems and IBM.

RIM has also updated the PlayBook tablet to add video Relevant Products/Services chat, BlackBerry Messenger, Docs Editing and home-screen browser bookmarks. RIM even offered a demo of some soon-to-be-released Android apps for the PlayBook, including the ever-popular Angry Birds game. And RIM promised native e-mail is soon to come.

But is it enough to impress investors and analysts -- and more importantly, consumers? Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC, is impressed with some of RIM's partnership moves and is bullish on the future of PlayBook and BlackBerry devices.

Forging Strong Alliances

RIM and Adobe are working closely to offer a better Adobe Flash experience. Although Adobe has worked with RIM on the PlayBook and was working with QNX Software Systems even before RIM's acquisition, Hilwa said the partnership is a synergetic move for both companies because they need each other to make Flash a strong platform for mobile Relevant Products/Services devices. The PlayBook's BlackBerry Tablet OS is based on QNX software Relevant Products/Services.

And Hilwa likes the IBM move. "Also getting deeper with RIM is IBM, which is integrating some of its Lotus assets with the BlackBerry platform and positioning itself as ready for enterprise mobility," he said. "This has been congruent with RIM's strategy to open up development for its platforms, and it will pay dividends in the long run."

But despite all the announcements, it was the Microsoft Bing deal that especially caught Hilwa's attention because the mobile wars are bringing competitors together. As he sees it, the Bing deal is a showcase of the new age of disruptive change in platforms.

"Given how RIM is positioning its platform as open for all developers, and given Microsoft's strong developer ecosystem, are there other points of synergy here? Can RIM make Windows phones? Can Microsoft add BlackBerry Messenger to Windows phones? Is there a case for an acquisition?" Hilwa mused. "These are fun questions to ask, but the deal is really about getting Bing a bigger footprint in the search wars."

The QNX Transition

Although there was no news Tuesday about timing on a transition to the QNX operating system for smartphones, Hilwa said it's clear a transition is in the cards within the next year or so. In his view, RIM should take its time and bring out QNX phones incrementally and with the right capabilities. The PlayBook rollout has been a tough software experiment, he added, but it will help QNX phones be that much more robust when they arrive.

"The current state of the PlayBook has gotten some rough reviews, but I think it is important to step back and think through what is happening here. RIM is inviting as many development tools as possible onto its platform," Hilwa said.

"The execution for this approach is harder and requires more R&D spend to support properly, but the multiple development models such as Flash, Java, C/C++, Android, game frameworks, etc. ... make this a universal application platform that has the potential to become the first open tablet platform. We will have to wait and see if it the initial-release hiccups are fixed quickly enough to realize this potential."

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