Blackberry Playbook is hard work and little play -

What have been hailed as Apple's first major competitors, long trumpeted by their respective manufacturers and winning shedloads of attention at high-profile conferences , it seems the tablet is still struggling to be that worthy coffee-table replacement against Jobs' brand. The Xoom is plagued by pricing and dodgy marketing, while Playbook maker RIM has opted for a very bizarre USP indeed.

Generally speaking the launch of Motorola's Xoom see it get pretty good reviews but the price-point was absurdly high. I4U has a great article comparing marketing strategies here where it's highlighted that besides being extremely expensive, the adverts are crap and don't tell you anything about the product.

The Xoom got the tech press in such a state of arousal that it unanimously voted the Xoom Best in Show at CES before anyone even had the chance to play with it properly. Reviews are underwhelming. While it's a good tablet, the general view seems to be that Apple's gleaming rectangle still leads the way by miles. 

Now the Playbook has had its first round of reviews. Top Apple friend and muse Walt Mossberg over at the Wall Street Journal / AllThingsD says it's, well - OK and it has a nice UI. But there's one bizarre "feature". At the moment, you've got to have a Blackberry if you want it to work properly.

That's the kind of closed-wall tomfoolery that Steve Jobs and Co. could only dream of. Unless there's a Blackberry phone nearby to pair the device with, you won't be able to access: built-in email apps, a calendar, a memo pad or the BBM instant messenger.

If you've got a Blackberry and it is in range, you can connect the two devices over Bluetooth and then you'll be able to use the core features that should have been there in the first place.  The idea, Mossberg thinks, is to appease worried corporate types who don't want a touchscreen in the office. Business is RIM's core target, after all.

RIM says it will add the software in the future.What is it about tablets that Apple is doing so right? Having played extensively on a first-gen iPad - but not yet having had our paws on the second gen - we have to admit that even with grievances like no flash etc., it is an intuitive device which is great for casual computing.

Likewise Samsung rushed out its initial Galaxy Tablet to find a place in the market (more on that soon in our absurdly s/t fashionably late extensive hands-on) which functions as an excellent smartphone for giants.  

We've no doubt there will be a strong rival to Apple's tablet offerings in the near future. If nothing else - by the law of numbers, as every company in the world runs to Android to get its equivalent to market.