RIM, the company behind Blackberry, took a serious gamble when they went head-to-head with Apple in the tablet market. And so far, it looks like they are losing – that is if the critics are to be believed.

Critics have panned RIM's PlayBook tablet, saying it is a rushed job that won't even provide email service unless it's hooked up to a Blackberry.

"RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell," New York Times' David Pogue wrote in a review.

Not a standalone gadget
The PlayBook offers secure e-mail service only in tandem with a BlackBerry, at the moment, but those key services are expected to be launched later.

"I got the strong impression RIM is scrambling to get the product to market," Walt Mossberg, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article.

RIM's 7-inch WiFi-only device is priced identically to Apple's 10-inch market leader and faces tough me-too competition from a slew of devices running Google's Android software.

What is impressive?
The PlayBook is able to handle Flash websites and it can show one high-definition image – a movie, for instance – on a connected TV, while doing something else on its own screen. Those are two things the iPad cannot do.

But reviewers paid more attention to what the PlayBook can't do – namely, limited internet access.

The PlayBook needs a smartphone to access a cellular network and a BlackBerry to tap into RIM's popular BlackBerry Messenger chat platform or get secure emails.
While the iPad already had a library of more that 65,000 apps, RIM says the PlayBook and its brand-new QNX-based platform will launch with around 3,000 apps.

That number will grow in coming months as RIM adds support for Android apps and those available on its smartphones.

It's too little for Mossberg, even though RIM plans to add a video-chat app soon and key email and personal organizer features, plus cellular connection, later in the year.

"Until then, I can't recommend the PlayBook over a fully standalone tablet, except possibly for folks whose BlackBerrys never leave their sides," he wrote.

Serious power issues
In other critical comments, tech websites Boy Genius Report and Engadget zoomed in on what may at first glance appear trifling: a small and hard to operate power button.

"It's impossible to find by feel and, once located, difficult to activate," Engadget said.

Reviewers also fretted that, days ahead of a launch that will define RIM's standing in the tablet market, the company was still pushing out software updates to fix bugs.

"The PlayBook of today is considerably better than the PlayBook of yesterday, which also was a big step forward from the one we were reviewing two days before that," Engadget said.

It sounds like the iPad won't be dethroned anytime soon. Would you rather buy an iPad or PlayBook?