The BlackBerry PlayBook that Research In Motion shipped on April 18 has come under fire by many reviewers, and not for what it is, but for what it isn't. In short, it's not an Apple iPad. But in the real world of business, maybe you don't want an iPad. It should be noted in the interest of full disclosure that I own an iPad and I love using it, so this isn't some sort of slam on Apple's product.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is designed to be a partner with a smartphone, ideally with a BlackBerry smartphone. The way it is currently designed, the PlayBook will link to your BlackBerry using Bluetooth, and it will echo the email, calendar and contacts to the screen of the PlayBook. You can also access Web mail from the PlayBook, but right now the device doesn't have its own email client.
You can also use a BlackBerry or other Bluetooth-equipped smartphone to tether the PlayBook and provide access to your carrier's 3G or 4G connection. Because of this, the PlayBook isn't carrier-specific and you don't need a separate data plan to use it. The device will work with Wi-Fi so you don't need to use your smartphone while you're using the device to browse the Web or watch movies.
But what about all of the flack regarding the lack of an email client? To some extent it's justified. Without having its own email client, you must use the BlackBerry if you plan to do things like delete all of that email you don't plan to read anyway. And unfortunately, you can't do this while you're cruising at flight level 380, because you can't use Bluetooth on an airliner. So if you're going to erase email, you'll have to switch your BlackBerry smartphone to airplane mode, and delete things on the smaller screen.
According the RIM, the lack of an email client is a security issue. Apparently this issue will be overcome later this year when RIM releases email clients for the PlayBook. This explanation has been criticized by many, and unfortunately not explained by RIM. But what I think is going on is that RIM is working to make the PlayBook's email as secure as it is on the handset. Considering how secure BlackBerry email is, perhaps it's taking a little longer than expected to bring it to the new platform.
In reality, the critical issue for many businesses is security and platform control. BlackBerry Enterprise Server provides both, and the other phones and devices out there don't. If you really need the level of security that comes with BES, then the PlayBook is probably your best option-and it may be your only option.