The Playbook Tablet - Rock Star or Wannabe? (BlogIdol Repost)

I play guitar.  It's about the only thing I've done longer than being (happily) married, and I've been married a long time.  If you look at my profile picture, you will soon conclude that in no way, shape, or form, do I resemble a rock star.  Ozzie has no worries about competition from me.

If I look at REAL rock stars; Clapton, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison, Les Paul, [add your list here], they are defined by the innovation they brought to their music, bending the rules to create a whole new experience that was soon copied by everyone else.

Rock and Roll defined a whole generation, and the artists collectively took popular culture to a whole new level.  Almost every 12 year old that asked for a guitar wasn't thinking about Uncle Bob's old nylon string classical that's been under the bed in the guest room for years.  They wanted a Strat, or a Telecaster, or a Les Paul, or a Flying Vee, and a really, really, big, amplifier.

If you've ever watched the hard core wannabes, they don't even need a guitar to try and act like one.  We all know someone (and I'm talking to you here) that has turned a tennis racket into an air guitar and did all the moves in front of the bedroom mirror.  The phenomena of Guitar Hero and Rock Band provides a glimpse into just how deep this wannabe symptom goes.

But rock is not the only genre where there has been a tremendous amount of innovation.  There are great examples across jazz, fusion, classical, roots, world, and even (gasp!) country.  Rather than take up a whole lot of room, take a few minutes and listen to Eric Mongrain in the video below.

(If you like what you saw, check out more of Eric at his web site. )

While you don't have the same phenomena of crowd emulation, you have to agree that there can be great innovation in niche markets, which (finally) gets me around to the topic of this post.

There is no doubt which mobile and tablet devices have been crowned Rock Stars...  Apple's iPhone and iPad have defined (some might say refined) a generation of how people interact with their personal device.  They are experts at it.  (Disclosure - I do not own any Apple stock, but I certainly have purchased a boatload of their products).  Apple did more than build technology.  They sat down and thought long and hard about how people interact with technology.  I see absolute proof of this when I watch my 3 year old granddaughter flick, pinch and swipe.  She reorganized all the apps on my wife's iPhone into 2 folders.  While she is just learning words and letters, she is a pro at the interface.

While the iPhone and iPad are great platforms for entertainment, I found I was always making compromises when it came to interacting with my work - with the mountains of emails in multiple accounts, with interfacing with the applications of business, with reading complex spreadsheets, etc.  So I started looking for another instrument.

I recently acquired a Windows Phone 7. Despite the sluggish start, and media crucifixion (eerily similar to the same crowd that skewered the Playbook), I really like this device.  It's different than my iPhone.  While I can't plug my electric guitar into it (like the iPhone), its interface design lets me do what I need to do and get off the phone quickly.  Microsoft seemed to understand this in one of their ads (view it here)... we need to do our business, and get back to life quickly.

The WP7 phone is not trying to be a Rock Star, and fails when you try and force fit it into that category.  Imagine Bill Gates on stage at a Lady Gaga concert (Sorry if I've implanted a visual that will need to be surgically removed).  But put Bill in front of a TED conference, and he holds the audience.  There really are other genres.

I also own an Android tablet.  While it is not a Motorola Xoom, or a Samsung Galaxy, I don't get the same sense of fluid interface that the iPad has -  I could never expect my granddaughter to figure it out, never mind the typical user we support. This device brings out the techie in me which I don't mind, but it certainly does not bear well for the user who wants simplicity and elegance.  If I look at the amount of support we have to provide (on a per person basis), Android phone users take up much more of my help desk resources in trying to keep their phone connected to our corporate email, wireless infrastructure, etc. as we upgrade equipment and services.  In a static environment (i.e. POP email, or IMAP that never changes) the devices seem to work well, but IMO, they truly aren't the device for the masses.  If I gave one to my wife, I know that her tolerance for technology would soon be frustrated to the point of it not being worth it.  (That's why she has an iPhone).

And now for the Blackberry Playbook.  It's not a Rock Star, and it should never try to pretend to be one.  I've owned serveral Blackberries over the years, and they have always been great at what they do.  It's the officially supported mobile device at Appleby College, as it was at my 2 previous positions.  The BB itself had some major shortcomings, and you know what I'm talking about if you spend much time browsing the Intenet. Based on the early reviews of actual users (See Chris Lau's posting here), this device will do much to extend your mobile experience if you are a BB user.  It's not for everyone.  Just like jazz or fusion can be painful for those who prefer classic rock.

Getting back to the guitar analogy - I own more than a few instruments.  Accoustic, electric, acoustic/electric, classical. While I can play a rift of "Smoke on the Water" on my nylon stringed classical guitar, it really sounds better on my electric with the right effects pedals.  The point?  Select the right instrument for the outcome.

So... the answer to the question Rock Star or Wannabe is... neither.  For those of you who bought a Playbook for all the right reasons, make sure you take the time to blog, Tweet, or comment and tell the world what this device does when you use it in the right genre.

Let me close with one last thought about trying to make the Playbook something it isn't.  There's an old saying; "Never try to teach a pig to sing.  It just wastes your time, and annoys the pig."

Related Posts: (Mine)

Do I Buy a RIM Playbook?  Or a Hamster?

10 Reasons why you should buy a RIM Playbook today.

(by others)

Review: RIM Playbook (Chris Lau)

 Please note: This posting was one of my entries in Computerworld Canada's BlogIdol contest (http://blogidol.ca


  1. Kevin, maybe next year at MES we should organize a jam session instead of a golf tournament.

  2. Bill,
    I'm always impressed with the number of people in IT that are also accomplished musicians. Perhaps fodder for a scientific study or a blog post?

    I agree. I'm up for a jam session anytime.