October 1, 2020

State of the Art: A BlackBerry Tablet, but Where Are the Apps?

The BlackBerry tablet, though, seems worth a look. The tech world’s been hyperventilating over this thing. It’s called the PlayBook, and it’s a seven-inch touch-screen tablet ($500, $600, and $700 for the 16-, 32- and 64-gigabyte models).

The iPad, of course, is a 10-incher, but seven has its virtues. It’s much easier to hold with one hand, for example. In principle, you ought to be able to slip the PlayBook into the breast pocket of a jacket — but incredibly, the PlayBook is about half an inch too wide. Whoever muffed that design spec should be barred from the launch party.

Still, the PlayBook looks and feels great: hard rubberized back, brilliant, super-responsive multitouch screen, solid heft (0.9 pounds).

Its software is based on an operating system called QNX, which Research In Motion, the BlackBerry’s maker, bought for its industrial stability. (“It runs nuclear power plants,” says a product manager without a trace of current-events irony.)

Nor is QNX the only other company that lent a hand. Palm and Apple were also involved, although they didn’t know it. The PlayBook software is crawling with borrowed ideas.

For example, to remove or rearrange apps, you hold your finger down on one app icon until all icons begin to pulse (hello, iPad!). And to close a program, you swipe your finger upward from the bottom bezel to turn all app windows into “cards,” and then flick one upward off the screen (hello, Palm Pre!).

There are no buttons on the front at all, and the top edge has only On, Play/Pause and volume keys. Instead, you navigate by swiping your finger from the black border, which seems unduly wide, into the screen itself.

Swiping upward reveals your app icons (and turns your apps into “cards”). Swiping left or right cycles among open multitasking apps. And swiping down reveals an app’s toolbar, if it has one.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing beforehand if a toolbar exists, so you often swipe futilely and feel silly. Similarly, if app icons completely fill the home screen, you can swipe upward to reveal more — but you won’t know if there are more until you swipe, because no scrollbar appears beforehand to let you know there’s more below the screen.

But the PlayBook does three impressive things that its rivals — the iPad and the Android tablets — can only dream about.

First, with a special HDMI cable (not included), you can hook it up to a TV or projector, which is great for PowerPoint presentations. (Apparently they still do those in corporations.)

The iPad does that, but the TV image is identical to the iPad’s screen image. The PlayBook, however, can show two different things. On the TV, the audience sees your slides; on the PlayBook, you get to see the traditional PowerPoint cheat sheet of notes and slide thumbnails.

The second cool feature has to do with loading the tablet with your music, photos and music. Unfortunately, there’s no iTunes-like software to do this automatically. You have to drag files manually from your computer into the PlayBook’s folders (Music, Photos and so on). But once you’ve set up this process using a USB cable, you can do it thereafter over Wi-Fi — wirelessly. The PlayBook can even accept such wireless transfers when it’s in sleep mode, sitting in your purse or briefcase across the room.

Finally, there’s a wild, wireless Bluetooth connection feature called BlackBerry Bridge. In this setup, the PlayBook acts as a giant viewing window onto the contents of a BlackBerry phone. Whatever e-mail, calendar, address book and instant messages are on the BlackBerry now show up on the PlayBook’s much roomier screen — a live, encrypted two-way link.

(Another advantage of pairing the PlayBook with a BlackBerry: The tablet can get online using the BlackBerry’s cellular connection. You don’t have to pay another $15 or $20 a month for a tethering plan, as you do with iPhones and Android phones.)

BlackBerry Bridge is supposed to appeal to the corporate network administrators who are R.I.M.’s bread and butter, because they can deploy PlayBooks without having to worry about security breaches. Everything they’ve worked so hard to secure on your BlackBerry — e-mail, calendar and so on — stays there. It only appears to be on the PlayBook.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c7031a444bf0adc15f224f66c83580c4

Speak Your Mind