One tablet, two tablet. Red tablet, blue tablet. As quickly as the demand for tablets was realized, it seemed the market for them has already been flooded with options. These products fill different areas of the 40 oz, 13 inch gap between the laptop and the smart phone (and yes, the traditional book). Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of Blackberry, is now the most recent addition to this space with the announcement Monday of their tablet, the PlayBook.
Some of the PlayBook features highlighted in the announcement were it’s 14 oz weight, 7 inch screen, and front and back cameras. But the feature that most grabbed my attention was it’s ability to sync with the Blackberry device. The PlayBook enables a short-range wireless connection to the Blackberry which will provide a larger, color screen and ability to view work emails, work documents, and the web. Yet, none of the private content will stay on the tablet once the connection to the Blackberry is interrupted. The PlayBook is screaming BUSINESS EXECUTIVE… which is not surprising since co-CEO Jim Balsillie stated that RIM worked closely with CEO’s in development. He goes on to say that “this is hands-down, slam-dunk what they’re looking for.”
So what does this have to do with supply chain? Two things. First, the collaboration with CEO’s in product development is a great example of becoming market driven, a core principal of Demand Driven Value Networks (DDVN). Earlier this year, I published detailed research on the value of becoming market driven for supply chain innovation… available at: http://www.gartner.com/resId=1430713 In this instance, RIM is clearly balancing customer demand with product innovation. Now the question is how well they will manage supply. I guess we’ll see when the product launches in 2011.
The second implication for supply chain is in how agile Consumer Electronics companies can be in both responding to and orchestrating demand shifts in the next few years. The PlayBook is clearly targeted to commercial customers. That said, will it cannibalize any of iPad’s demand? Will it impact just netbook sales or will demand bleed over from notebooks as well? Will RIM bundle sales with the Blackberry? The point is that while PC marketplace has left only a few major players left after it’s travels into commoditization, the PC manufacturers are now also clearly targets of mobile device manufacturers. And while this has been happening for a long time now, each new announcement crowds the market further. All of this points to a need for better demand sensing capabilities in High Tech to both kill dying products to avoid excess as well as innovate products to capture new opportunities.
Is the PlayBook a “game-changer?” No. But it should at least be a notice to PC companies enjoying heavy margins in the B2B sales channel that someone new is chatting with their executives. And not just mobile device manufacturers… Don’t be surprised when you bump into other familiar faces from High Tech. Hi Cisco.
What do you think? Will you buy a PlayBook? What if your company fronts the bill?