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RIM hits back at PlayBook critics

BlackBerry Playbook

It can’t be easy for the CEO of a company when they have to go around TV studios defending a product before it’s even been launched. You’d hope that if any defending needs to be done, it’d be once it’s in the hands of consumers. Not so with RIM’s PlayBook, due for release on Tuesday.

Critics have already given it a good mauling, and by that we’re not referring to their vigorous handling of the device at tech shows like CES.

The critics’ harsh comments, highlighting issues such as the current dearth of apps and the device’s lack of mobile network connectivity, prompted RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie to spring into action, giving an interview to Bloomberg News.

No doubt RIM’s sliding share price, which has slipped 7.2 percent this year and dropped even further off the back of the most recent reviews, was also a factor in Balsillie’s decision to talk to the media just ahead of launch.

In response to the negative comments regarding the PlayBook, Balsillie told Bloomberg: “I don’t think that’s fair.” He noted that for those already with BlackBerry devices, the PlayBook can be connected using the BlackBerry Bridge Bluetooth feature.

“A lot of the people that want this want a secure and free extension of their BlackBerry,” continued Balsillie, in a clear indication that RIM will be relying heavily on the loyalty of existing BlackBerry users in order to sell the PlayBook.

Are the critics being unduly harsh? Building up a healthy catalog of apps isn’t going to happen overnight. That will come over time when developers start getting their teeth into it. And as for mobile network connectivity, that should becoming later in the year.

Besides existing BlackBerry users, RIM is also looking toward the business community for sales, hoping that features such as enhanced security will appeal.

With Apple shifting more than 15 million iPads last year alone, and the recent release of its updated version selling well, not to mention the avalanche of new devices entering the market, RIM will have its work cut out to make an impact.

RIM offers three versions of the PlayBook. The 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models will be available from next week, selling at $499, $599 and $699 respectively.