Embarrassing

Well, let’s just call it. We’ll do it with The Globe And Mail, RIM home-turf, running this piece: RIM’s PlayBook gets rough early reviews opening with this line, “The initial verdict for Research in Motion’s PlayBook is in — and it’s generally not good.”

That’s just embarrassing. For me. Here I was thinking they were getting something to market to get back in the game. Here I was thinking they were picking up a great base OS in QNX and leveraging AIR to get a decent, or at least better, application development layer than they’d have been able to field otherwise. Here I was thinking ditching essentials like a mail client and a calendar was because they didn’t think they’d get them to their quality levels in time and they were happy with just getting something decent out there that they could iterate on. Here I was thinking RIM was trying to do what Jack Gruber explains Apple does: roll.

From the reviews it seems they’ve spent some time rolling around in it all right.

If you’re going to cut back on features and be late — make sure you’re good for what you are. The fallacy is that competitors need to ship a product that beats iPad in it’s first iteration. They don’t. They need to create a device that addresses a few problems better than iPad can. RIM had a clear niche there — integrating a tablet into the corporate infrastructure they’ve spent a decade dominating. Cut corners, hell, assume a BlackBerry companion if you need to, but know what your product is. Make it well and ship it with confidence that it’ll address the needs of the customers you’re targeting, even if that’s a smaller subset than you’d ultimately like to reach. Shipping a product that helps ten people is better than shipping a product that gives one thousand people a hassle.

RIM was in a position to do that. A nice custom OS with AIR atop it. Integrate it with corporate backends and BBM. Tell “Enterprises” they can let their “Web Guys” build custom AIR apps that don’t need to jump through any hoops to be deployed — there’s some traction there. Maybe not much, but what do you expect when you’re years late to the race? Pick the sure footing. Sprinters use a starting block for a reason, it’s a good solid launching point that can be leveraged to gain an initial thrust. Muddying your position, and product definition, won’t get you anywhere quickly.

You know who actually did that bit well? Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 was well received, competent, reasonably polished and missing a lot of functionality iOS had already had time to grow. That was more or less forgivable though. People asked where Copy and Paste was but it didn’t sink the product out of the gate. For what it was — it was good, and that still engenders some respect. Where Microsoft dropped the ball was in updating it. The whole key to starting with the essentials and rolling with it is in the momentum. The Windows Phone 7 team, for whatever reason, never developed momentum and I’d guess they never will.

Anyway, I stuck my neck out for RIM there thinking they’d ship something small but competent. Early evidence is proving me wrong.

Nice job, RIM, you’ve made me look like an asshole.