View From Above

May 24, 2011  8:41 AM

Chromebook Could Be Good for IT, But Not Users

Posted by: Ron Miller
Chrome OS, ChromeBook, CR-48, Google, mobile
The Chromebook has been designed to be the ultimate Cloud netbook. The beauty of the cloud has always been the ability to access content wherever you are from any device. What if the device itself were just a front end for the cloud? That would simplify life for IT, but in the end I don’t think it will ultimately serve users and that could be the Chromebook’s ultimate undoing.

Last week, a friend lent me the CR-48 Chromebook prototype. In case you aren’t aware, it’s basically a netbook in the truest sense of the word; a small laptop designed to run cloud applications from the Chrome browser known as the Chrome OS because the browser effectively operates as your operating system (and nothing lives outside of it). That means in practice, you live your entire computing life inside this browser. To open a new application, you open a new tab to access a web-page front-end with all of your applications.

I used it on and off for a few days, but I didn’t really enjoy the experience for a number of reasons. First of all, it was clearly a Beta machine and had all of the problems inherent in that. It was buggy and unstable and for a machine based in the Cloud, not terribly user-friendly.

When it locked up at one point, I needed to jump through a number of hoops to reset the machine. The process involved removing the battery, finding a black piece of tape against a black background, removing the tape and flipping a physical switch to get into Developer Mode after which you could reset the machine.

Needless to say I wasn’t impressed, and I’m hoping that the versions Samsung and Acer are releasing for cash-money won’t require this kind of work-around to get the machine working. And I haven’t even mentioned the horrible trackpad. I had to connect an external mouse it was so bad.

But it wasn’t just the Beta experience that I disliked. I found working in the browser 24/7 to be an awkward way to work. I’m used to being able to switch quickly between open applications. You can’t do this with the Chrome OS because you have to click a tab to move to an application or open a new one. When you have a bunch of tabs open–some with apps and some with web pages–it gets unwieldy fast.

As an IT Pro, you might find the idea of a Chromebook attractive because it’s a simple machine with very little storage and very little for the end user to screw up, but that’s the problem. From a user perspective, I couldn’t help but feel I was using a neutered machine.

I couldn’t use it the way I was used to working, and even though I spend a good part of my day in the browser, I found being locked in the browser confining and I’m betting I won’t be alone.

In the end, unless there is some serious tweaking, I don’t see the Chromebook being successful. I know that Google is trying a rental system to sweeten the deal for IT. At $28 a month per user, it seems like cheap money. All upgrades are handled by Google. If the machine breaks, Google says it will fix or replace it and you get a new one every 3 years regardless.

But Google isn’t in the hardware business and I don’t see this being any more successful than Google’s failed attempts to sell the Nexus One through its web site.

IT may love these machines, but if you can’t sell them to end users–and I’m betting you can’t–the Chromebook will fail. Google is not and never has been a hardware company. I don’t think they can suddenly transform into a successful one now, especially when the hardware is as weak as this.

Photo by edans on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 18, 2011  1:57 PM

Google Has to Consolidate Muddled OS Strategy

Posted by: Ron Miller
Android, ChromeOS, enterprise IT, Google, Honeycomb, mobile, Operating Systems
Google made a big splash last week when it announced the Chromebook, which is basically a netbook running a new browser-based operating system called ChromeOS. The new OS is all well and good, but I’m wondering if Google is in danger of confusing consumers and IT alike with a few too many OSs.

Let’s review the line-up first:

  • Android: That’s the open source operating system for phones.
  • Honeycomb: That’s like Android, but instead of being for phones, it’s for tablets.
  • ChromeOS: That’s the browser-based OS built on Linux for Netbooks.

Confused yet? I know I am and I’m finding readers are too, mixing up the different OSs in discussions — and how can you blame them?

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier, a veteran technology journalist who has been covering open source for many years thinks Google needs to get its act together around these operating systems or risk market confusion.

“Yeah, I think that Google is stepping all over itself marketing-wise. It needs to do better at explaining its roadmap, where all these things fit, and how they’ll come together,” Brockmeier said.

And that’s part of the problem right there. It’s hard to know what you’re talking about when referring to Google’s OS roadmap, and the way the different versions get implemented (or not) simply adds to the confusion.

Brockmeier isn’t as concerned as some around Android fragmentation, but he can see where it could alarm users. “Initially when people were talking about Android fragmentation – when carriers were slow in shipping point upgrades to users (like 2.1 to 2.2) I wasn’t too concerned. It’s not optimal, but it’s also not the end of the world” he said. Brockmeier added that having multiple operating systems isn’t the end of the world either, but it’s not very good for users and it’s a big red flag for anybody who’s paying attention.

Brockmeier wonders why Google didn’t simply extend Android to the Netbook, rather than coming out with yet another operating system. “It’s hard to see why Google is also pushing ChromeOS when it could nudge Android onto netbooks – and, in fact, one OEM has done this with the Motorola Atrix. I think the Atrix configuration makes much more sense than the browser-based OS that just runs Web apps. They could do the Web apps plus other apps by beefing up the browser that ships with Android,” he said.

Regardless of what you might think of Google’s operating systems in general, you have to admit that the approach they’ve taken could be troublesome for users. The Google naming conventions don’t help (Froyo, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and so forth).

What we have are the ingredients for a muddled marketing picture. Google could avoid this if it just decided on a single code base and built all of the pieces on top of that. As it stands, they have way too many operating systems and potentially a lot of bewildered users — not to mention IT pros who must be wondering just how many operating systems they are going to have to support from the same company.

Photo by lrargerich on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 16, 2011  7:54 AM

Horrible Stretch for Cloud Computing Continues

Posted by: Ron Miller
Cloud computing, enterprise IT, Google, John Halamka, Microsoft, public cloud
Wow! Has this been a terrible stretch for cloud computing. It started with Amazon outage at the end of April where it was reported some data might have been permanently lost. It continued last week when Google’s Blogging platform, Blogger went down, taking out posts and comments with it, and for a time not allowing bloggers to post to the site. At about the same time, Microsoft’s online Exchange email went down with emails reportedly taking up to 9 hours to deliver. What the heck is going on and what should an IT Pro be thinking?

It’s a good question. For those who hate the cloud and all it stands for, these outages provide fodder for their anti-cloud rants and fuel their fear. The trouble is that so many of us have become dependent on cloud services, we can’t really afford to walk away at this point, and we probably shouldn’t let a bad few weeks steer us either way.

I see it a lot like baseball. In a 162 game season, you can’t judge a team in 10 game stretches. You have to look at the overall picture of the team — not when it’s going great, and not when it’s going horribly. By the same token, we can’t judge cloud computing based on a few well publicized outages.

In some sense, this is all about growing pains. As cloud computing grows more popular, outages such as these from popular services are going to have a bigger impact when they do occur and generate more publicity as a result, especially when the companies involved are the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

But in each of these cases, as bad as they were, and as frustrating as it was for every user involved, the services came back and for the most part — with that exception of Amazon — no data was lost.

The good news is that all three companies get that they have to be up front about these outages and explain clearly what happened. And in all three cases, the big companies posted sincere apologies with clear explanations about what went wrong.

But is sincerity enough for a busy IT pro just trying to keep his users up and running? Probably not, but it’s nothing that each IT pro hasn’t run into in his own data center from time to time. As Healthcare CIO John Halamaka pointed out in his a blog post called, Should We Abandon The Cloud, his company’s system has “highly redundant, geographically dispersed Domain Name System (DNS) architecture. In theory it should not be able to fail. In practice it did.”

And Halamka writes it’s foolish to think it can’t happen to anyone, even these three large companies whose business is the Cloud. “Believing that Microsoft, Google, Amazon or anyone else can engineer perfection at low cost is fantasy,” Halamka wrote.

And that’s the bottom line: Whether you’re running the data center yourself or you’ve outsourced to another company to deal with, stuff is going to happen. That it happened to such big players in quick succession is certainly startling, but it’s not the end of cloud computing by a long shot. If anything, it’s just the beginning, and as such, we have to learn to be patient.
Photo by Mike Licht, on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 11, 2011  1:16 PM

Google Can Go Slow with Honeycomb; Tablet Makers Can’t

Posted by: Ron Miller
Google, Honeycomb, mobile, Motorola Xoom, tablets
Google has a way of doing business that can probably be exasperating for its partners. It likes to move slowly, put something out there, let it percolate, see what happens and build on it. A case in point is the Honeycomb tablet OS; an OS that by all reports is not ready for prime time and is putting vendors like Motorola in a bind.

I was playing with a Motorola Xoom the other day at Best Buy when a guy came up to me and started chatting. He told me he was in IT. He loved the Xoom, but he admitted it wasn’t fully ready and you had to be a little geeky to deal with it. Google might not mind that it requires a little bit of tinkering, but you can be sure Motorola does.

Jason Perlow writing on his TechBroiler blog on ZDNet was so disgusted with the state of the Xoom’s Honeycomb OS, he returned it calling the OS half-baked and writing he “didn’t want to pay $600 to be one of Google’s Beta testers.” Ouch.

If you’re an IT pro sitting out there reading this, you have to be wondering the same thing as Perlow. You’re not about to put a device in the hands of your users that isn’t completely ready yet. You simply don’t want to be in the position of bombarding your Help Desk with angry calls from frustrated users who aren’t clear why their shiny new tablets aren’t working as advertised.

This is clearly a case of the tablet manufacturers needing to make a splash today, right now, at this very moment. They cannot afford to futz around while Google lumbers along trying to get the operating system in order. Apple has a huge head start and the market tends to be very unforgiving.

At the Google I/O conference this week, Google did announce a Honeycomb upgrade was imminent with the perfectly awful name “Ice Cream Sandwich.” How about calling it Honeycomb 1.1 or Honeycomb: The Working Version (assuming it does).

As Larry Dignan wrote on ZDNet, it’s a start, but is it enough? “The Honeycomb update is certainly welcome, but it’s unclear whether Google will be able to wipe away early disappointment with Motorola’s Xoom. It would have been better to nail Honeycomb out of the gate,” Dignan wrote.

And that’s the problem. Google let its partners down in a big way by releasing an operating system that wasn’t really ready for anyone, but my geeky pal at Best Buy.

At this point, I’m sure it doesn’t matter to Motorola and other partners who are running Android in its present form whether Google calls the upgrade Ice Cream Sandwich or Orange Sherbert of if they call it late for supper, so long as it’s stable and doesn’t feel like a beta release.

Because Google might be able to afford to go slow and let its software loose on the world, ready or not, but companies relying on it to sell tablets to users in the real world simply can’t afford to take that approach while Apple continues to control the vast majority of the tablet market.

Photo by elisfanclub on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 9, 2011  4:52 AM

Time for Apple to Finally Close Cloud-Mobile Loop

Posted by: Ron Miller
Apple, enterprise IT, iOS, mobile
This blog is dedicated to the cloud-mobile connection — that inexorable link between mobile devices and the ability to access our data in the cloud, wherever we are and whatever device we are using. Apple is a company that clearly understands the power of the mobile side, building its empire chiefly on this idea, but what’s so surprising is that up to now, it has failed to close the cloud-mobile loop.

But if rumors are true, and I believe they are, that could be changing very soon.

Up to this point, Apple’s cloud attempts have been on the lame side. Mobile Me is a start, but long ago (back in 2008) I lamented that Apple had no business charging its loyal customers $99 a year for the privilege of accessing their data wherever and whenever they want. Mobile Me has been for the most part, a half-assed attempt at providing a cloud service to its users, while trying desperately to keep us tied to iTunes.

iTunes is a great place for Apple because it provides a direct link to the iTunes Store and to the App Store — two places that Apple wants its users to live, but iTunes certainly doesn’t work from a business user perspective and it’s not much better for consumers.

While it provides a way to organize your music, videos, podcasts and so forth, it lacks the beauty and elegance we typically see in Apple software. In fact, I’ve found iTunes to be slow, clunky and a huge resource hog.

When Amazon launched its Cloud Player storage and music playing service recently, it demonstrated just how powerful it was to have your music (and other files) at your finger tips all conveniently stored on Amazon’s storage service in the cloud. When it launched, Cloud Player supported Android, but not iOS. In recent days, however, there have been reports that you can finally access Cloud Player in the browser on iOS, but there is still no iOS app for it. It’s a weakness just waiting for Apple to exploit.

Word is Google is also working on a similar service and all this seems on its face to be forcing Apple’s hand, although it appears they were preparing for such an inevitability anyway. Apple recently opened a billion dollar data center in North Carolina. It also bought the rights to the name iCloud. It’s all coming together and pointing to some type of cloud service — and it’s about time.

In fact, in my view, for IT Pros to take iOS seriously as an enterprise mobile operating system, Apple has to simplify the entire process of launching apps, backing up mobile data to the cloud automatically and updating the operating system on the fly without having to connect to iTunes. Currently, you have to plug your iPhone or iPad into your PC, and access iTunes just to upgrade iOS and that isn’t going to fly in the enterprise over the long term.

All enterprise concerns aside however, it’s time for Apple to close the loop and make that cloud-mobile connection a seamless experience regardless of whether you’re a consumer or an enterprise user. The days of being tied to a dekstop application are over and it’s seems Apple could be finally ready to acknowledge that.

Photo by phil dokas on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 5, 2011  6:25 AM

Can RIM Come Back?

Posted by: Ron Miller
Blackberry, enterprise IT, mobile, RIM
This week, as RIM held its annual Blackberry World User Conference in Orlando, FL, it seems a fitting time to assess where RIM is in the mobile space and what it’s trying to do to restore its once dominant position in the smart phone market.

The comScore market share scores for RIM over the last year do not tell a pretty story. Beginning in February 2010, RIM had a commanding lead in market share with 42.1 percent. One year later, they had dropped 13.2 percentage points down to 28.9. Google had passed it and Apple was nipping at its heels.

As you can see from the chart below (compiled from data in comScore press releases), the drop has been steady and startling:

Month/Year Market Share (as measured by Top Smartphone Platforms)
Feb 2010 42.1
May 2010 41.7
Aug 2010 37.6
Nov 2010 33.5
Feb 2011 28.9

You can click through to see the Top Smartphone Platform data yourself if you wish, but the numbers tell a tale of a company in decline.

The phone that for all intents and purposes was the granddaddy of the smart phone has been in market share free fall for the last year under pressure from more popular Android and Apple phones.

To its credit, RIM has not stood still. It has desperately tried to regroup and staunch the bleeding, but as you can see from those numbers, the results haven’t been so great. So what we are seeing this week is a company trying to find its footing.

To that end we have partnerships including one high profile one with Microsoft, delivered by Steve Ballmer himself, who announced that Bing search tools (including maps) would be the default choice on all Blackberry phones and the PlayBook tablet in the future.

The PlayBook itself is an attempt to get RIM back inside the enterprise via the tablet and to make it more palatable, RIM has developed a way to run Android apps on the PlayBook non-Android OS, while also announcing all kinds of new apps including Facebook and Angry Birds (which might not make IT administrators warm and fuzzy, but it will please end users).

There is also a new version of the Blackberry OS coming out. The good news is it will be on phones starting this summer. The bad news is that it won’t be backward compatible, meaning you have to buy a new phone to get it. Will that strategy work? Hard to say, but Jason Perlow certainly doesn’t have high hopes as he wrote on ZDNet, comparing the strategy to a long-forgotten early PC operating system, CP/M, which tried this approach and failed miserably, left in the dust bin of computing history.

RIM is obviously hoping that to escape that fate, but Perlow makes a good point.

There has been a flood of other announcements, too numerous to mention in a single post. The company is clearly trying hard to stay relevant and to reverse the downward trend, but part of what allowed RIM to dominate in an earlier period was that IT controlled the choice of business phones inside organizations and many chose Blackberry.

Today, end users are beginning to assert themselves, and given the choice, people have moved onto sexier devices. It’s going to be extremely difficult to win those folks back no matter how enterprise-friendly RIM remains.

But clearly RIM needs to at a minimum, stabilize the situation because it really can’t afford to continue to lose market share in bunches for much longer. Time will tell if the moves worked, but with a shifting market, it’s certainly not looking very good right now.

Photo by Kapungo on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

May 2, 2011  6:30 AM

Amazon Data Loss is a More Serious Issue

Posted by: Ron Miller
Amazon EC2, Cloud computing, Data Loss, enterprise IT, Outages
Regular readers of this blog know that I tend to look at the bright side of cloud computing (pun intended). Even when bad things happen, I try to push back against the easy negative response to every disaster that comes down the pike, but when Amazon went down last week for several days, and it came out that a small percentage of clients experienced data loss, it shook the foundation of my confidence in the notion. And I’m betting I’m not alone.

Granted it was a small number of customers, but if your data fell within that range, that’s probably little consolation at this moment — and it’s a serious matter.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about data loss on cloud services of course. Back in October, 2009 Microsoft infamously hosed the data of all Sidekick cell phone users. More recently Google lost a bunch of email during a Gmail outage. The difference in both of those cases is that the data was eventually recovered and everything was fine.

It may be that the Amazon data too eventually reappears, but it’s not looking good right now. To Amazon’s credit credit, it published a detailed post-mortem explaining exactly what happened and what they would do to prevent a similar occurrence from happening in the future.

As Sharon Fisher pointed out on the TechTarget Yottabytes blog, we can’t stop talking about it — I know — me included — but there is a common pattern among the analysis:

So now the Internet is seeing a storm of a different kind: A pundit storm where people talk about 1) What It All Means and 2) Where We Go From Here and 3) Could It Happen Again?

1) S*** happens. 2) Don’t have a single point of failure, duh. 3) Of course.

All absolutely sound advice, and surely while this incident when combined with actual data loss taints cloud computing, we shouldn’t allow it to poison our view completely. More than simply allowing a single (extremely bad; disastrous for some) outage to completely destroy your perception of the cloud, use it as an object lesson.

Make sure, for instance to read the service level agreement carefully and understand exactly what it means. It defines things like up-time promises, data redundancy and backup and what you can expect if (when) a disaster strikes.

This incident also points out in big red letters with bright, shiny spot lights, number 2 in Fisher’s answer list above. You have to have your data in more than one place.

When I wrote Cloud Haters Jump on Amazon Fiasco last week in response to the outage, my point was, (as Fisher articulated so well) sure s**** happens, but in the end all would be right with the world. But after this data loss, my confidence has been shaken a bit and so should yours.

But rather than damning the whole concept, make sure you learn from this incident, never rely too heavily on any one vendor in the future — especially if you were a data loss victim — then lick your wounds and move on.

Photo by Govt & Heritage Library at the State Library of NC on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

April 25, 2011  4:53 AM

Cloud Haters Jump At Amazon EC2 Fiasco

Posted by: Ron Miller
Amazon Web Services, enterprise IT, Outages
Cloud haters had a field day last week when Amazon EC2 was pretty much hosed for the better part of two days. By now you know the story. It took down major swaths of online service real estate including Reddit, Quora and Foursquare.

But as Randy Moss, once said after a particularly testy exchange with the media, “The New England Patriots are 2-0. We got one in the division. So all you haters keep hating. We’re coming!”

Moss was right about one thing, if you want to go negative, that’s your choice, but neither the Pats nor the cloud are going anywhere, no matter how big the disaster. It’s not. So just take a deep breath and let’s see what we can learn from what happened last week.

Here’s what what we do know. Services like Amazon EC2 are a good thing. They give small companies like Reddit, Quora and Foursquare incredible scale and elasticity (the ability to scale up and back as traffic requires). And they can do it at a price that would be out of reach without scores of venture capital to build their own data centers.

Here’s another thing: What happened to Amazon can happen to anyone. As I wrote the other day on the Business Service Management Hub, “If it can happen to Amazon, it can happen to you because at its heart what is Amazon but a giant data center, whose core business is keeping other businesses going.”

That’s right, the idea that you are somehow protected from disasters like this because you keep everything behind your firewall is simply naive. A data center is a data center is a data center, and if it could happen to Amazon with all of its disaster recovery plans, it could certainly happen to you too, whether you believe it or not.

Perhaps, the best lesson to come out of this was what Patrick Corrigan wrote on Storage Bytes Now, and that’s an age-old one, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Just as I’m sure, you spread your in-house data around various resources, don’t hitch your cloud wagon to a single vendor because when disasters strike like happened last week, you want a way to keep it going.

One way to do that is to make deals with more than one vendor. Corrigan was speaking in the context of storage and backup, of course, but it’s a lesson that could apply to any online infrastructure service. Just as your Exchange server goes down from time to time, taking the company email with it, so will your online infrastructure provider, as we learned last week in a spectacular fashion.

The take-away here isn’t to stay away from the cloud because bad stuff happens. It’s to realize that bad stuff will happen and try to find ways to mitigate that, just as you do with your in-house systems.

I’m probably being hopelessly naive here, but I’m hoping we can get past the point of a rash of this-is-the-end-of-the-cloud blogs and articles every time an outage happens in the cloud. It’s going to happen again, and it’s probably going to give you all cloud haters a chance to keep on hating — whether it makes sense or not.

Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

April 20, 2011  3:15 PM

Be Afraid: Bipartisan Cloud Legislation Proposed

Posted by: Ron Miller
Cloud computing, enterprise IT
Even if you don’t love the cloud, if you support the idea of innovation in the cloud, you had to shiver a little bit at the news of bipartisan legislation to regulate the Cloud — especially when one of the sponsors is Senator Orin Hatch, the 77 year old Republican senator from Utah, who I’m guessing probably still has his emails printed out for him.

The legislation, which was filed along with Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, who according to a post in the Twin Cities Business blog — and I’m not making this up — introduced the legislation at the Richfield, MN Best Buy store. I guess Senator Klobuchar thought that a consumer electronics store was the best place to introduce legislation about something she probably knows little or nothing about. I would have loved to have had a seat at the planning meeting for this event.

Senator Klobuchar (and her staff) obviously understands technology as proven by her insightful quote introducing the legislation in which she stated, “This legislation will clarify the rules of the road to make it safer and more convenient for both consumers and companies to zoom along on the information superhighway. It’s pro-consumer, pro-business, and pro-innovation.”

It’s all those road analogies and pro-thingies. How wonderful. And just to show how technologically hip she really is she then handed it over to Best Buy Geek Squad members to offer a cloud demonstration. Golly, that must have been fascinating.

As for Senator Hatch, he’s the guy who in 2003 suggested that copyright owners should be able to destroy the computer equipment of anyone suspected of copyright infringement. He backed off a few days later, when it was discovered his own official web site was, ahem, infringing on someone’s copyright. I’m thinking his depth of technology understanding probably hasn’t evolved that much in 8 years that he’s the best person to drive legislation about regulating the Cloud.

The legislation itself is about providing security in the cloud. I’m guessing the senators heard or read that there are concerns about cloud security and they decided to be proactive and do something about it, to save the world from hackers and other miscreants (like those pesky copyright violators).

But if you ever want to kill innovation in a New York minute, let the United States Congress regulate a technology they know absolutely nothing about. I’m sure it would be entertaining watching C-Span for the debate just to see what our elected officials had to say on the matter.

All joking aside, however, cloud computing is a very real and still developing industry. Yes, countries have to find ways to share information across borders and processes have to be worked out to ensure data security, but maybe instead of having two senators with no technology background whatsoever designing that system, just maybe we should let the standards bodies have a go at it. I’m still shaking at the thought of the US Senate doing it.

Photo by manwithface on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

April 18, 2011  5:41 AM

RIM Appears to Botch PlayBook Launch

Posted by: Ron Miller
Blackberry, enterprise IT, RIM, tablets
This was supposed to be a huge week for Research in Motion (RIM) as it released its new PlayBook to an audience of IT pros waiting with breathless anticipation for a tablet that was finally designed specifically for them, but what they got was a powerful piece of hardware with some huge and unforgivable software holes, and excutives who mishandled press criticism.

When you think about RIM, you think of a company that has messaging down cold. The famous Blackberry phone has had a place in board rooms, airport waiting areas, and halls of power for years, being the of choice (at least until recently) for retrieving corporate email on a mobile device. That’s why you would think the one thing RIM would get right on the new PlayBook tablet would be messaging.

That’s why I was shocked to read Walt Mossberg’s Playbook review in the Wall Street Journal and learn that you can’t retrieve email or use Blackberry messaging unless you tether your Blackberry phone via Bluetooth connection to the PlayBook to do so. As Mossberg writes they left out a few key ingredients for any device hoping to make it as a corporate tablet:

This first edition of the PlayBook has no built-in cellular data connection and lacks such basic built-in apps as an email program, a contacts program, a calendar, a memo pad and even RIM’s popular BlackBerry Messenger chat system.

Yes, you read this correctly. Although Mossberg points out that there are plans to add all of these missing functions later in the year, this device really had no business going to market without them.

RIM seems to have to gone to great lengths to build superior hardware and a fast operating system, yet released it to the buying public without basic functionality associated with the RIM brand.

As David Pogue put it in the New York Times, rather humorously: “The PlayBook, then, is convenient, fast and coherently designed. But in its current half-baked form, it seems almost silly to try to assess it, let alone buy it.”

If ever there were a company in need of a home run, this was it. Yet co-CEO (I’m wondering why they have two) Jim Balsillie complained to Bloomberg that criticism such as Pogue’s and Mossberg’s was misguided and unfair (yes, unfair) because it failed to take into consideration RIM’s base. Apparently he was trying to make the argument that linking the phone and the tablet in this fashion to get basic business functions was a natural match.

All well and good I suppose, but RIM has been a company losing market share in bunches for some time now as end users flock to Android and iOS smart phones. The most recent figures from comScore show a 4.6 percent drop for the most recent period from November 2010 through February 2011. And these figures have been dropping consistently over time.

I’m thinking they really don’t have to cater to their base at all at this point. They need to expand outside of it and this is a device that clearly had the potential to do that. Unfortunately, RIM seems to have screwed up the initial launch, whether they are willing to admit it or not.

If the base hardware and OS are as good as reviewers say, perhaps there’s still time to recover, but with HP not far behind and many more Android devices in the wings, along with initial bad reviews, RIM might have blown its best chance to make a tablet splash.

Better to be late to market with a device that’s ready, than early with one that’s not. And RIM broke that rule big time here. Time will tell if they pay the price.

Photo by The Game Way on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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