RIM is pitching the PlayBook as an enterprise-grade tablet, but it also features a few unique capabilities that could make it a very versatile gaming machine.
Research in Motion introduced the BlackBerry PlayBook to the world as an enterprise-grade tablet computer geared towards professionals, but it has a few unique capabilities that could see you replacing your PlayStation or Xbox, if the price is right.
During a session at DevCon 2010, one of the creators of the tablet's operating system, Dan Dodge, raved about the PlayBook's ability as a gaming machine. He said "this isn't just a tablet, this is a killer tablet, the gaming experience is off the charts". The combination of its dual-core processor and 1GB of memory will definitely help this statement, but it isn't the whole picture.
Importantly, the PlayBook features 1080p output across an HDMI cable. If you consider that many Xbox and PlayStation titles still run at 720p, then this will be more than sufficient to deliver comparable image fidelity. But it's how it displays this output that has piqued our interest.
Unique to the PlayBook as a tablet is its ability to output two images to separate display devices — one going to the TV, the other showing on the tablet's LCD. This means developers could, in theory, create a control scheme on the tablet display while the game plays on a flat screen, or, like the PlayStation, a Bluetooth controller could be connected to the PlayBook for an even more attractive gaming proposition. It also has Wi-Fi on-board, so multiplayer sessions are definitely on the cards.
There are downsides to this equation; on-board storage will limit the size of the titles available, and with no optical drive it could be a pain to transfer huge files to the PlayBook via a digital distribution channel for game sales. That said, the PlayStation Network and Valve's Steam channel for PC are already doing exactly this and customers seem to be responding well.
The real stumbling block will be whether games developers see this opportunity and embrace it, and this burden falls to RIM to convince them. Following in Microsoft's footsteps, RIM should aim to have 50+ compelling game titles for launch to really let the PlayBook live up to its name.