Looking Beyond the iPad

Much of the air in the tablet sector is being consumed by the iPad. But folks interested in mobile unified communications should look at other devices as well. RIM's PlayBook is here and the Cius from Cisco is coming. The bottom line: There is life beyond Cupertino.

 By Carl Weinschenk
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While the Galaxy Tab from Samsung has generated a bit of buzz, the Apple device still reigns supreme in the tablet sector. Indeed, it threatens to become the name by which the category is referred, as tissues are sometimes referred to as "Kleenex," copies as "Xeroxes" and cola as "Cokes."

The iPad is impressive, but there are other candidates. Indeed, two business-oriented devices are queuing up to challenge the iPad. The Cius — which CRN describes as “being positioned by Cisco as a unified communications endpoint” — will be available this autumn on AT&T's network. The piece says that some high-level Cisco customers already have had access to the Wi-Fi version of the Cius since the end of March and the two companies are trying to get third parties to write business applications.

This long post by Forbes' Marc Weber Tobias describes what the writer thinks is wrong with another contender, Research In Motion's PlayBook. It is based on extensive conversations he had with RIM based on objections raised in an early post, and offers his take on what the future may bring. The bottom line is Weber Tobias finds a lot of fault, and doesn't seem swayed by the explanation that the device is a work in progress.

This review of the PlayBook at the Washington Post website starts with the pricing and the spec lists. Hayley Tsukayama subsequently says that the boot time is “agonizingly slow” but that the device subsequently moves seamlessly between apps. Tsukayama likes the device's size and, generally, the interface and keyboard. Things go downhill, however, in the versatility department:

This is where the PlayBook really falls down. Bluntly put, BlackBerry World is just not that good of an app store, and there are few programs optimized for the PlayBook. Plus, the PlayBook lacks native e-mail, calendar and contacts apps, so you're out of luck if you don't have a BlackBerry phone and a connection to use the tablet's Bridge app. RIM promised at BlackBerry World that these core apps are coming this summer.
The ultimate advice is stay away “unless you're a dedicated BlackBerry user.”  
These aren't the only non-iPad options, of course. The important point is that there indeed are other non-Apple tablet options for businesses in general, and unified communications in particular.
This article was originally published on May 12, 2011
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