As a Canadian, it's unpatriotic for me to say this, but I believe one unsuccessful product for 2011 will be RIM's PlayBook tablet.
With the start of a new year comes the usual pressure to produce a "best of" piece. And with 2010 rounding out the first decade of a fresh millennium, these are not limited to the last 12 months. Among these, IEEE Spectrum just released their Top 11 Technologies of the Decade. Were you expecting a lame excuse? Good because here it is: Dew Point is only a few months old, so how could I be expected to look back on the full year of 2010 let alone the last 10?
Rather than getting caught up in hindsight, I've decided to add my own dubious predictions for 2011 to the growing pile. Since I have never appeared on CNN or Fox News, I can hardly call myself an expert, but if one local writer gets his way, there may be a call to answer for past prognostications. A columnist in our local Ottawa Citizen newspaper devoted his recent book Future Babble to discussing the (mostly) failed predictions of experts. I haven't read it yet, but if Dan Gardner's columns on the subject are any indication, it will be well worth my effort.
Although it's unpatriotic for me to say this, I think one unsuccessful product for 2011 will be RIM's PlayBook, reportedly launching sometime in the second quarter. After all, RIM is not only the darling on the Canadian high tech scene, it is almost the only one since what remains of Nortel is a few patents and a lot of bickering amongst the creditors.
If anyone with power at RIM decides to take a hard look at things, I would put the PlayBook on the vaporware watch list for 2011. And here's why:
Now I go beyond simply unpatriotic to opening myself up for a few "Apple fanboy" accusations. But the iPad has been a success in every measurable sense in its short life of nine months. If we look back to the iPad's detractors from the time it was announced about a year ago and even to this day, there is a long list of missing features. The Apple tablet computer lacks:
- a camera
- capability to display Adobe Flash-based web content
- USB ports
The PlayBook has all of the above as well as a second videoconferencing camera. Did co-chiefs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis take a look at how "doomed" the iPad was for lacking these features? I can't argue that the PlayBook was too far into its development cycle with most of the specs pretty tightly nailed down by the time the iPad was shipping last spring. But as time wore on, RIM management committed at least one of the two following errors. One possibility is that they were dogmatic in their approach and ignored that fact that iPad sales continued to grow despite lacking "key" features, sticking instead with the original game plan rather than re-spinning or dumping the product. The other option is that RIM thinks they have a device that will be an iPad killer without the need to rethink their strategy based on how the tablet market has developed.
Not only does the PlayBook support the Flash content absent from the iPad, it is largely built upon it. To some degree the fortunes of both RIM and Adobe could be riding on the PlayBook. If Steve Jobs gets his way with HTML5 continuing to eat away at the Flash base out there, this featured spec may turn into a liability.