BlackBerry PlayBook 7" tabletby Philip Greenspun, May 2011
I borrowed a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet during a trip to Orlando, Florida and attempted to use it for the typical things that I would normally do with a laptop computer while traveling.
The first failure occurred attempting to connect the PlayBook to the wireless network at a Holiday Inn Express, which requires visiting a Web page to enter a password and checking a box to accept terms and conditions. The browser on the PlayBook rendered the form properly and displayed the "you are connected" confirmation page, but every subsequent attempt to use Internet failed and/or landed the user back at the "please type in the network password" page. I had no difficulty connecting a $500 Lenovo laptop computer running Windows 7.
I searched for "gmail" in AppWorld, hoping to find a dedicated client program. Instead, the AppWorld search engine returned a blank screen with no indication that no matching apps were found or that the search was complete.
I tried reading Gmail from the Web browser on the PlayBook. The page is rendered in a layout that I've never seen before, either on a mobile phone or a desktop computer browser. I was unable either to delete or reply to messages. Buttons that said "delete" or "send" were presented, but then pressing those buttons did not result in any action or change in the screen content.
The touch interface requires training and practice. It is impossible to use the device, for example, simply by touching the backlit portion of the screen and the buttons on the side. The borders of the frame are also touch-sensitive and are required for basic operations, such as getting back to the home screen. The user swipes down, for example, to open a settings menu. If he or she swipes up, what happens? Nothing. The user is supposed to swipe down again to undo he or she just did. How it is intuitive to pull something down and have it move up, I'm not sure.
My friend has not asked for the tablet back (he got it for free at a conference).