MONTREAL — Research In Motion faces an uphill battle in a tablet market that is not only filled with consumers crazy for Apple’s iPad but also with business users who already carry laptops and whose bosses look for productivity.
The BlackBerry maker is launching its PlayBook tablet in Canada on Tuesday at a number of retail chains like Sears, Future Shop and Staples and has already said a number of blue chip companies will be trying it out.
“I think for businesses that want a tablet and want security, the PlayBook will be welcome,” said Rory Altman, a director at the consulting group Altman Vilandrie & Company.
But Altman said he’s not convinced that business users need the PlayBook, or any tablet, until they learn how to use it in a way that improves efficiency, cuts costs or improves sales.
“The real question is will enterprises determine that the PlayBook is really going to improve productivity in the workplace,” Altman said from Boston.
The iPad leads the tablet market by far and Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) received mostly lukewarm reviews when it launched the PlayBook last week in the United States.
Analyst Matthew Robison said businesses will wait to use the PlayBook if they don’t have a “pressing” reason.
“They are not a must-have for most people in business,” said Robison of Wunderlich Securities in San Francisco.
But they are “compelling” for professionals in the life sciences field and others who need to do presentations, have a device with a long battery life and want access to corporate information, Robison said.
A major knock against the PlayBook that will affect consumer and corporate users is not having direct access to their email, contacts or calendar without using a BlackBerry smartphone and downloading the BlackBerry Bridge app to do so.
“Anyone who intends to use a tablet independently needs those functions,” said PC Magazine mobile analyst Sascha Segan.