No BlackBerry PlayBook? Blame Flash

Research In Motion is preparing to release its much-awaited response to the iPad, the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, a month behind schedule.

Among other reasons, Adobe Flash is probably contributing to the delay.

The PlayBook was supposed to be out the first quarter of 2011 but is now set to release April 19.

Some publications speculated on Thursday that the PlayBook's late launch is related to touchscreen supply. The PlayBook also lacks a finished software development kit for making apps, and won't have native mail, messaging and contacts apps.

Difficulty getting Flash to work properly on the PlayBook is probably another one of RIM's woes.

Let's take a look at the evidence. First, other tablet makers have had trouble with Flash. Motorola's Xoom launched without it, despite the fact that Motorola highlighted Flash support as a key feature.

Even though Flash Player 10.2 for Android is now available in the Android Market, the version meant for Android 3.0 Honeycomb (which the Xoom runs) is a prerelease version with significant limitations and lots of instability.

Second, sluggish performance and battery drainage have been problems for Flash before, and they're the reason Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave for nixing Flash support on Apple's mobile products.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab, which runs an earlier version of Android, is the only major tablet that currently supports a shipping version of the Adobe plugin.

Finally,'s Erik Malinowski tried a PlayBook tablet at CES and reported that Flash performance proved to be a "choppy and (ironically) limiting experience."

RIM officials at the time were tight-lipped about the tablet's expected battery life, saying only that it would be more than an hour. That was an early version of the tablet, but choppiness in one of its key features doesn't bode well.

Without great Flash support, a PlayBook tablet would practically have nothing to do.

Last year RIM drummed up Flash support for the upcoming PlayBook, saying that it was going to deliver the full internet experience. That would, in theory, give the PlayBook an edge over the iPad.

"We're not trying to dumb down the internet for a small mobile device," says Mike Lazaridis, RIM's CEO, during the PlayBook demonstration. "What we're trying to do is bring up the performance and capability of the mobile device to the internet."

RIM's planned April 19 launch lines up with Adobe's claims that Flash will be available for tablets "within a few weeks of Android 3 Honeycomb devices becoming available."

It's been six weeks since Motorola released the Xoom, and April 19 is probably as long as Adobe can wait before Flash can no longer be considered "a few weeks" late.

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