Research in Motion’s announcement of a seven inch screen tablet called Playbook caused a minor ruckus yesterday but it was a non-announcement that assures iPad dominance through the Christmas season. The tablet is touted as a dual core tablet that runs a multitasking Unix variant called QNx that is used in embedded systems like satellites and medical equipment. It will run Flash. It has a Wifi radio which may be tethered to a Blackberry or not. An App store? Of course.
The problem starts here: it won’t be available until the first quarter of 2011, missing Christmas. Also, no one was allowed to touch one of these devices. This makes it vaporware like every other would be iPad killer.
What it won’t have is battery life. It is about 30% smaller than an iPad and slightly thinner leaving less space for a battery. Add dual core processing and you hit the battery harder than a single core. Add a gig of RAM and multiprocessing which will be left up to the user and you get fifty, maybe one hundred different processes burning up processing time and the user will never know it unless they police it themselves. Add Flash and fuhgeddaboudit. You are looking at three maybe four hours of battery life tops with normal use.
It will also run hot. My Droid 2 which happily multitasks willy nilly used to get second degree burn hot before I figured out how to shut down Motoblur. With two processors and no fan, this may get hot enough to ignite the Lithium in the battery – a dangerous situation if you have it packed in the luggage between sweaters and it turns itself on.
It’s not easy to make an iPad. Apple had nearly four years of beta testing tablets with iPhone and iPod Touch. Adding features is done to preserve user experience which in a portable device is defined by screen, user interface, speed, and battery life. Expect Playbook to be a fail if they get anything less than a netbook’s battery life which on my Dell hackintosh runs 5 hours with the extended battery.