The standard gripe with Research in Motion’s (RIM) new PlayBook tablet is, Show us the apps! Review after review pilloried RIM for shipping a tablet before it had more than a handful of apps and there is truth in that complaint.
Pickings are slim.
But poke around and in fact there are plenty of tools (some cool, some useful) that turn the PlayBook into a must-tote accessory but useful work can also be done on a PlayBook if you ensure that you have the right apps.
See why veteran technology journalist Rob McGarvey thinks RIM’s got a winner with Playbook.
Here are my 10 favorites:
Tungle – Particular abuse was heaped on RIM for shipping PlayBook without a native calendar app (only those with Bridge connecting to a paired BlackBerry had easy access to a calendar), but RIM now has shut those mouths with Tungle, a company bought by RIM just a couple weeks ago.
This is a stand-alone calendar/scheduling app and it synced in seconds with my Google calendar account. What’s in Google now is on Tungle on my PlayBook. Better still, a user can grant access to his/her Tungle calendar to co-workers so that they can hunt online and propose meeting times for available time slots. This is very good, free software that should be downloaded to every PlayBook.
Word To Go . This is the full version of the word processing software from Data Viz (many of the assets of which were purchased by RIM in September 2010) and it is a standout tool that opens Microsoft Office documents, nothing extra needed. It’s a powerful Word stand-in for real document creation. The plus: it ships free with PlayBook.
When it initially shipped it did not have spell check ability, but that appears to have been rectified. You really could write Moby Dick using this app, it is very powerful.
SlideShow To Go – Another Data Viz asset, this free app handles PowerPoint. You can show shows, edit, and create slides. It comes standard on PlayBook and it is also a slick, quality app.
A PlayBook plus is that the device comes with an HDMI port so video can be projected to a big screen. Think about how cool that is: you pull the PlayBook out of your pocket and, literally, within a minute you can be projecting a show to an auditorium.
Video Chat – Here is the negative: right now this app only lets you call other PlayBook users running Video Chat. The rest is all positive. The PlayBook screen is dazzling. Camera quality is good. Sound is fine. This app may become a true killer app in some organizations because it genuinely empowers conversations. It’s another free app from RIM and comes bundled in OS version 1.0.3 so it’s yours for the taking (or leaving).
TripExpenseBuddy– A personal favorite use of a tablet is compiling expense reports on flights home. This free app serves nicely. It is barebones, utilitarian but it gets the job done and that means this is a chore you don’t have to do when you are at your desk in the morning and everybody wants something from you.
iSpeech – So you never did complete the Babbel.com foreign language course and now you are at a hotel desk in Paris trying to figure out if breakfast is included in the room rate. Don’t despair. Speak into the free iSpeech app and it both translates your question into written French and it speaks it aloud. Pretty much instantly. Eighteen languages — Finnish to Chinese — are on my PlayBook.
Adobe Connect – Another free video conferencing app (and it is very good), that builds in a range of useful meetings tools that let a user drill into activities that interest you, right now. Want to see that slideshow? A few clicks and you can. View Adobe Connect as bringing 21st Century meetings technologies to the PlayBook. (Note: meetings of course have to be hosted via Adobe Connect software, with fees involved.)
Whaxi – An app that uses the location-awareness of the PlayBook, Whaxi lets you summon a cab with a push of a button. If taxi companies in your area do not participate in Whaxi, you’ll get the phone number of a taxi to call. Still an app in its development phase what is cool about Whaxi is that it is a clear pointer to where we are heading with tablets.
BlueBox – A free app that provides easy access to a DropBox cloud-based storage account. (Note: there are paid apps that do likewise but BlueBox worked fine for me.) This in effect adds another 2 GB of storage to the PlayBook.
FileBrowser ($.99) – File architecture on tablets usually is opaque — it can be really hard to find a download, for instance. FileBrowser is a paid app that provides a clear view of where everything is. Files can be opened within FileBrowser. They also can be deleted. This is an essential app for any nerd.
aVNC ($2.99). Lets the PlayBook access a computer that also is running aVNC software, for quick file retrieval. Connections are secure and password protected. Note: this kind of app is one of the most popular on iPad. It’s safe to expect many more, similar apps showing up for PlayBook soon.
What’s not available
Still no Skype, no GMail app, no Kindle app, no EverNote … frankly a lot of apps that ought to be on PlayBook are not, but RIM is insistent that they are coming. And in that vein there’s also the news, broken at the early May BlackBerry World, that Angry Birds is coming to PlayBook. When? We do not know since details were not disclosed but one reality is there are a lot more games seem headed to PlayBook.
Robert McGarvey – As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.