Sorry — a $120 keyboard won’t save RIM’s $200 PlayBook


Research In Motion introduced a new wireless keyboard for its PlayBook tablet on Tuesday: The $119.99 accessory also includes a convertible case to hold both the keyboard and tablet. In a video demonstration RIM emphasizes how the keyboard, and its integrated trackpad, can boost productivity by using the hardware with a remote PC access service, such as Citrix Receiver.


As a product, I think RIM’s new keyboard is a great idea. I’ve used 7-inch slate tablets since 2006 and have routinely used wireless keyboards with all of them. For productivity apps and fast text input on a smaller screen, few solutions beat out a traditionally-styled keyboard. But I’m not in love with RIM’s implementation of this useful product.

For starters, it’s challenging to sell a $120 accessory for a $200 device — the starting price of RIM’s PlayBook line. I’m not suggesting the price isn’t worth it — I’d actually argue that it is — but it could be a tough sell. Perhaps enterprises that have invested in PlayBooks will consider these, but few consumers are likely to spend this much. Those that have a PlayBook — and there can’t be that many since RIM has only shipped around of million of them — might buy, but this keyboard isn’t likely to attract many new PlayBook customers.

And that’s the crux of the problem: RIM arguably didn’t enter the tablet game with a complete product. The PlayBook debuted nearly a year ago without a native email client and lacking support for BBM. Fast forward to today, and the device only just received a software update last month,¬†adding apps for email, a calendar and a subset of Android apps. And now there’s a keyboard. The accessory should have debuted with the PlayBook, not nearly a year later.

As I said in my initial review, the PlayBook was great at what it can do; it’s what was missing that was the problem. It took RIM a long time to address most of the missing pieces that would make the PlayBook better, but data suggests that only the current device owners are benefiting.

Simply put: RIM’s investment in updated software and new hardware accessories isn’t likely to pull in new buyers. Even if RIM could get consumers to understand its progress with the PlayBook, I suspect many would comment, “So, essentially, you’ve mostly caught up to other tablets and still have relatively few apps.” I have to wonder at this point: Is the company just throwing good money after bad in an attempt to stay in the tablet game?

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Comments have been disabled for this post