Slice of the pie

One tablet maker is team­ing with tech gi­ants to win your at­ten­tion, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Tech -

EVEN in busi­ness, the en­emy of your en­emy may be your friend.

This the­ory brought to­gether some of the world’s big­gest tech­nol­ogy names last week as they teamed to pro­duce a com­pet­i­tive tablet and world-first apps to chal­lenge mar­ket leader Ap­ple.

The un­ex­pected friend­ship cir­cle in­cluded Re­search in Mo­tion ( RIM), the brains be­hind Black­Berry, soft­ware gi­ant Microsoft, so­cial net­work­ing leader Face­book, cre­ative cen­tre Adobe and search gi­ant Google.

The team is pool­ing its spe­cial skills to whit­tle down the lead es­tab­lished by Ap­ple’s iPad, now in the hands of more than 15 mil­lion peo­ple.

The gad­get the team is back­ing to achieve this is half the iPad’s size – the 7-inch ( 17.78cm) Black­Berry Play­Book.

Due in Aus­tralia within weeks, the slick tablet of­fers some­thing gen­uinely dif­fer­ent in size, form, menus and the way it op­er­ates, from con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net to de­liv­er­ing web videos.

But RIM al­ready faces chal­lenges to its suc­cess and has been forced to change some of its orig­i­nal de­sign. It is also plan­ning to add in­no­va­tive apps and use Google to boost its ini­tially mod­est app li­brary.

RIM gath­ered the mot­ley crew of tech­nol­ogy gi­ants in Or­lando, Florida, re­cently for its Black­Berry World Con­fer­ence. The 10th an­nual gather­ing drew its big­gest au­di­ence at more than 6000 at­ten­dees, lead­ing co-chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Lazaridis to an­nounce: ‘‘ I’ve never been more ex­cited and more con­fi­dent about our fu­ture and where we are go­ing.’’

But the con­fer­ence came at a chal­leng­ing time for RIM af­ter it re­cently an­nounced a profit warn­ing and dropped to fourth place in the world­wide smart­phone wars.

To counter this, Lazaridis re­vealed a new flag­ship smart­phone in the Black­Berry Bold 9900. But his fo­cus was trained on the com­pany’s new tablet, the Play­Book, out in the US for less than a month.

Fea­tures in­clude a video­call­ing app that can also be used to make voice calls and the first of­fi­cial Face­book app for a tablet, made pos­si­ble us­ing Adobe’s Air.

Lazaridis was also keen to stress RIM’s on­go­ing part­ner­ship with Adobe that de­liv­ers Flash videos to the tablet’s screen from sites in­clud­ing Face­book, some­thing Ap­ple’s tablet does not sup­port.

In ad­di­tion to Adobe’s back­ing, Microsoft has joined the Play­Book fan group, with chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Ballmer mak­ing a sur­prise ap­pear­ance in Or­lando to an­nounce Bing as the tablet’s de­fault search en­gine.

Bing would not only be in­cluded in the tablet, Ballmer said, but the re­la­tion­ship would ‘‘ go way be­yond a search box’’.

‘‘ It’s about find­ing real tools that help peo­ple to get things done,’’ he said.

Plans for the un­ex­pected part­ner­ship in­cluded lo­ca­tion ser­vices and aug­mented re­al­ity apps that let users wave tablets in front of them to find out more in­for­ma­tion about stores, land­marks or peo­ple.

RIM will also en­gage Google to pop­u­larise the Play­Book, though with­out the search gi­ant’s per­mis­sion.

The com­pany con­firmed it would sup­port apps from Google’s An­droid Mar­ket, let­ting app de­vel­op­ers add their cre­ations to two tablet camps at once.

RIM chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer David Yach said the new fea­ture would be launched soon and would boost the Play­Book’s ini­tial of­fer­ing of 3000 apps.

‘‘ There’ll be the equiv­a­lent of one but­ton push that will [ let de­vel­op­ers] sub­mit apps to Black­Berry, like any other app sub­mit­ted to App World,’’ he said. Google’s app de­pos­i­tory of­fers more than 101,000 apps.

Ovum prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst Tony Cripps said the move was ‘‘ un­der­stand­able but po­ten­tially risky’’, be­cause it may con­fuse app de­vel­op­ers.

RIM will also add two im­por­tant apps to the Play­Book that were de­lib­er­ately left out at its re­lease. Email and calendar apps were ex­cluded from the Play­Book for cor­po­rate se­cu­rity rea­sons, but their omis­sion at­tracted great crit­i­cism from users.

RIM busi­ness and plat­form mar­ket­ing se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Jeff McDow­ell said the com­pany would back­track on its de­ci­sion and re­lease these apps for the Play­Book in the com­ing months.

Whether Aus­tralians will em­brace the $ 467 tablet will be­come clear soon but one thing is cer­tain, it has back­ers in high places.

Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son trav­elled to Black­berry World Con­fer­ence as a guest of RIM.

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