image It’s kind of funny the way the tech press will kick an incumbent around the block for perceived or imaginary shortcomings in their products. The Blackberry Playbook is a good example. You’d think that RIM went out and created a useless piece of garbage that was never going to see uptake no matter how large RIM’s enterprise market share was.

The press and bloggers have leveled a whole slew of complaints against the Playbook that range from no out-of-the-box integration with mail servers to the power button not being convenient enough. Reading most of these articles and blogs leaves one with the distinct impression that the author is typing his article/post on his Mac while listening to his iPod and downloading pictures from his iPhone. Seriously. And I’m guessing for more than a few of the drooling naysayers that is exactly the case.

Lori and I pre-ordered the 32 Gigabyte versions for each other for our anniversary, and they came a little over a week ago. By the time ours were in hand, people were making all sorts of ridiculous claims about how horrible the device was and why it was destined to fail. So we were naturally curious, since RIM doesn’t generally make a poor product, most of them are astounding.

The device bears out as another quality RIM product, whining reviewers notwithstanding. The biggest complaint against the device is that it came without support for email built-in, which reviewers tried to pose as “not ready for prime time”. There’s a difference though, between a feature being left out to enhance overall experience and the entire device not being ready for prime time. A huge difference. And frankly, all this hand-wringing and screaming that the Playbook would never make it without this feature seems pretty silly in an age where a web browser gives you access to your email and calendar. The Apple Fanboys I know respond to that simple observation with “Yeah, but I like to be notified…” really? Did you intend to spend all of your time on a Playbook sized device? I doubt it, that sounds like a lame excuse to kick RIM.

Other reviewers have said “it’s not intuitive! Put it in someone’s hands and they don’t know how to use it!” Well, if you try to use it like Windows that’s true, but it’s true of the iPad too – these devices have a different input paradigm than a full-blown computer does. It takes a minute or two and you figure out how to do everything you need to. Again, a lame attempt to undermine a solid product, in my opinion.

I won’t grace any of the other flailing attempts to denigrate the device with an answer. I mean seriously, you’re complaining about the power button? It’s that thing with the industry standard on/off symbol on it, try pushing it.

Not that it is all sunshine and unicorns…

There are definitely things I don’t like about the Playbook. Like any other piece of complex equipment, it is better at some things than others. In the interest of giving you some real information instead of stammering attempts to undermine the product, here are the ugly bits.

When both WLAN and Bluetooth are enabled, the battery doesn’t last as long as I’d like, but that’s one of those things you adjust to – my laptops, both work and home – don’t last as long as I’d like either.

Tethering doesn’t bother me. I can get at mail and calendar in a browser, but wanted to try it out. I have a Blackberry Curve 8310, and I tried to tether the Playbook to it. No success. Now there were two possibilities here, I’m on AT&T who had some problems getting the tethering software for the Blackberry approved, and my Blackberry hadn’t been updated in forever. So I upgraded, then tried again. Nothing. I went out and found a work-around for AT&T’s network, and tried it. Nothing. So I went and did some research. It turns out that the version of the Blackberry OS required for the tethering software is not available on my phone… That was painful, the Playbook should just have a link you can click to find out if your phone can be used for tethering.

There are a lot of applications out there, but alas, the cool, very productivity-enhancing applications like iPad’s “Cat Toy” and “Get me a beer” applications don’t exist yet for the Playbook. No doubt my work will suffer for the lack.

Believe it or not, the spreadsheet included in the Playbook isn’t enough for me. I don’t need a full featured, astounding monstrosity like Excel, but I was hoping for a bit more than is supplied. Time will no doubt fix this and also provide integration with the major desktop spreadsheets, but for now, I can’t use it to do an inventory I was planning on because the spreadsheet application is weak, and the closest thing I’ve found to what I need is a database application that is more end-user than what I’m after.

I think the Playbook is comparable to the other devices of its kind out there, and with Blackberry’s history of enterprise support it will no doubt continue to grow into exactly what I was looking for. I’m not too worried about all of the negative reviews because all they do is make the reviewer look like an idiot when they scream and holler about things that just aren’t mission-critical. What is a Playbook used for. Access when the laptop is a bit much to be booting up. Not for 100% of your workload. Maybe one day, but the entire space is too new for any decent percentage of workers to start using it as their primary tool.

And F5, rocking our world yet again (we’re hiring… Check here), ordered us shiny new Blackberry Torches so that we can try out tethering. So maybe I’ll circle back if that turns out to be exceedingly cool or exceedingly painful.

Yeah, I thought the iPad was very cool when it came out too… But we don’t allow Apple products into our house for personal reasons (much to our teenage daughter’s consternation). This is pretty much the same product, just with the polar opposite of press reviews.