BlackBerry PlayBook: The business tablet that businesses don't want

CIO Jury: 3G-less tablets? IT chiefs are at the end of their tether...

Before the launch of the iPad, tablets were regarded as a niche piece of business hardware. Now, thanks to the Apple device, slates are selling in their millions to consumers and some hardware manufacturers are looking at how to replicate such sales in the enterprise market, developing tablets aimed specifically at business.

Among them is RIM, whose BlackBerry PlayBook tablet hit UK shores the month. It sports a seven-inch display and, like the iPad, supports multitouch gestures.

It also comes with front- and rear-facing cameras, and - unlike the iPad - supports Flash.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Can the PlayBook make a play for the enterprise?Photo: RIM

While earlier this year RIM was touting the PlayBook as "CIO approved", the device in its current form may face an uphill battle towards enterprise adoption. When asked the question, 'Will your IT organisation be buying the BlackBerry PlayBook to experiment with?','s CIO Jury voted 'no' by a narrow margin of seven to five.

Among the tech chiefs currently reviewing the PlayBook is Stephen Chilton, director of IT services at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, who is looking into it for two potential purposes: as an executive tool to help with access to management information and as a clinical information tool.

Iain Hepburn, IT director at Clarke Willmot, is also experimenting with the PlayBook. "We use Blackberry exclusively at the moment and are not getting much pressure to use or look at other devices - only one or two people ask every now and then. We will experiment with a couple of PlayBooks and see if they add any value or have a role to play, and we can do this quite easily within our current infrastructure and with our current devices.

"It looks OK but I can't make my mind up what it will be used for within our business so we will hand a couple out and then move them around and see what people feed back," he said.

However, for several heads of IT, the PlayBook simply doesn't compare to its Apple rival.

"Unless [the PlayBook] gains traction in the consumer market we are unlikely to develop for it, and I don't yet see any reason to dish them out to execs in preference to iPads. If RIM wants to gain traction here they need to sell the benefits of the product and I have not heard any yet. Also, if it is a business device, why is it called PlayBook? Has this been remotely thought through?" Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at Hachette Filipacchi, said.

Alan Bawden, IT and operations director at The JM Group, is also sticking with the iPad. "Several people in our organisation have already started using the iPad - including myself - and this would appear to be a de facto choice for us," he said.

Mike Wright, head of technology at Man Group, added: "We will stick with iPhones and iPads for the short term and see how much adoption it gets."

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By Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was th...