John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

BlackBerry PlayBook: Car Battery Not Included [UPDATED]

If Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook is to succeed at market the way the company hopes, there are a few engineering hurdles to overcome. The most significant, according to Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, is the pre-release device’s relatively poor battery life.

Sources tell him the tablet currently lasts just a few hours per charge, compared with rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, which lasts about six, and the iPad, which lasts upward of 10. If true, that’s an untenable situation for RIM, which really needs to hit the mark with the PlayBook, and it may cause a delay of the launch–if only for a bit (to be fair, Wu is talking about an unreleased device that’s still in development and months away from market).

“From our understanding, this [is] likely why RIMM pushed out its launch to the May 2011 quarter,” Wu writes. “Keep in mind that QNX (the OS on which PlayBook runs) wasn’t originally designed for mobile environments but rather for devices like network equipment and automobiles where battery life isn’t as much a constraint.”

In other words, as promising as plugging QNX into a tablet form factor with a dual-core processor and a gig of RAM sounds, it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge. So what’s the solution? Most likely a bigger battery. But obviously that will add to the heft of the device and perhaps require a design concession or two.

Given that, Wu takes a conservative view of PlayBook’s prospects; he figures RIM will sell 700,000 units in 2011, far less than the one million to eight million that other analysts have been calling for. “As we have said before, we are not convinced that tablets outside of the iPad will see high volume success,” he concludes.

UPDATE: RIM finally got back to me with a comment: “Any testing or observation of battery life to date by anyone outside of RIM would have been performed using pre-beta units that were built without power management implemented. RIM is on track with its schedule to optimize the BlackBerry PlayBook’s battery life and looks forward to providing customers with a professional grade tablet that offers superior performance with comparable battery life.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus