RIM's PlayBook faces mixed reception ahead of launch

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But the PlayBook lacks what many users would consider basic features such as a built-in calendar, contacts database, and chat application. When the device goes on sale, there will be about 3,000 third-party apps available, compared to the 65,000 on the App Store for the iPad.

"The PlayBook is a race car that's missing a wheel," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research, who attended the launch. "This is a very, very powerful platform, a very, very powerful device and it's a good proof point for the future of RIM ... but it's missing some key components for consumers. It's missing a native e-mail client and Forrester's data shows that the number one things consumers do on tablets is email."

Support for Flash may even things out a bit with the iPad, she added.

"Forrester's data shows that 23 percent of consumers considering buying a tablet say that the number of apps is in their top three criteria for buying a tablet, 19 percent say that Flash support is (important) -- so the PlayBook loses to the iPad in the app battle, wins in the Flash battle," Epps said.

The tablet market is growing, and should reach the point where there will be room for multiple vendors to be successful, analysts pointed.

"The tablets market, the pad market, is going to be a huge marketplace that will allow for a lot of players," said Bart van der Horst, a managing director at Canalys, at the PlayBook launch event. "Apple of course is a big player in the marketplace but you'll see Samsung, Microsoft as well as RIM doing good business."

Some CIOs meanwhile, are taking a wait-and-see attitude, even though the BlackBerry has been a corporate staple. “The jury’s still out,” said Gregg Davis, CIO for Webcor Builders, prior to RIM's launch event. Over half the mobile phones in his organization are BlackBerry devices.

One of the biggest problems he has with the PlayBook is that users will have to tether it to their BlackBerry to use applications like e-mail. “That’s something I think is a huge disadvantage,” he said. “If you’re in a hotel and you leave your cell phone upstairs and go to the lobby and want to use the tablet, you have to go back upstairs and get the phone.”

(Additional reporting by Nancy Gohring in Seattle.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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