When it was released in April of last year the BlackBerry PlayBook, like every other tablet, was roadkill in the race against the iPad.
Early reviews critiqued the device’s size and lack of native email and calendar applications. The late Steve Jobs, in what many perceived as sideways swipe against RIM, said seven-inch tablets were “Dead on Arrival”. The iPad, of course, went on to define the tablet category, and the Cupertino tech giant has sold more than 67 million of them, as of March 31st.
But the iPad didn’t kill the PlayBook, as many observers expected. RIM slashed the price ahead of the Christmas season and the devices sales steadily improved. Last week, Toronto-based Solutions Research Group said smaller cheaper tablets, at least in Canada, are taking a bite out of the iPad’s market share, slipping from a market dominating 80% of all sales to just 56% in one year. SRG noted the Playbook increased its share to 19%. Rumours now persist that Apple is planning a miniature version of the iPad that will be similar in size to the PlayBook.
One group that found the smaller PlayBook suited its needs was the National Hockey League Player’s Association. The NHLPA, noting the success it has had engaging fans in the digital realm with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, wanted to profile its players away from the ice in normal everyday situations. Colin Campbell, the NHLPA’s Director of Corporate Partnerships, said after looking at all the options the association decided on the PlayBook.
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“We looked at a lot of different technologies” said Campbell, “The PlayBook, we felt, had the best video camera, and offered the best ease of use and portability for the players. The iPad is the market leader in category, but we like the PlayBook for what it is.”
Campbell says the NHLPA then pitched RIM, who got on board with the idea that ultimately became “The NHL Players’ PlayBook”. The association recruited five of its members; Scott Hartnell, Marty Biron, Bobby Ryan, Joffrey Lupul and Michael Grabner, and gave them instructions to shoot “everything in their lives.”. “We wanted the behind the scenes stuff that the every day fan just doesn’t get to see.” explains Campbell.
The result is a bloggy, casual, cutting-room-floor look behind the lives of a National Hockey League Player. Viewers travel with Anaheim Duck’s star Ryan, who has trouble ordering a hamburger in Finland, go shopping for beds with the Philadelphia Flyers, and follow the New York Islander’s Grabner to visit the set of “Cake Boss” in New Jersey.
Campbell says the series has had more than 1.5 million viewers since it was launched in February, and the NHLPA will look to extend its digital footprint with existing partners such as EA Sports and RIM. On the phone with Cantech Letter from New York, New York Rangers goalie Marty Biron says he is on board for more.
“I had a lot of fun with the PlayBook” says Biron. The Rangers netminder says he impressed with the quality of the device’s video and found uploading from it a snap. “You have to play around with it a bit to realize how good it is.” he said, “But after a while I was able to hand it off to my young son, who was shooting video in the locker room, asking all the players about their playoff beards.” Biron says the PlayBook still gets plenty of use around his house.
Click here to view all the NHLPA “Players’ PlayBook videos on Youtube.