HP Calls RIM a Copycat, RIM Responds

Paul Lilly

As far as Hewlett-Packard is concerned, Research in Motion's PlayBook tablet hits awfully close to home. Never mind that the PlayBook sports a 7-inch screen compared to the TouchPad's 9.7-inch display, it's the PlayBook's operating system, powered by QNX, that reminds HP a little too much of webOS. You could say the similarities are uncanny, and in fact those are the exact words HP's Jon Oakes, director of product marketing, used when comparing the two tablets.

Oakes made the comment to Laptop Magazine , saying, "From what we've seen in the market, there are some uncanny similarities. It's a fast innovation cycle and a fast imitation cycle in this market, so we just know that we have the creative engine here to continue to build on what we have, and we'll keep innovating, we'll keep honing and those guys hopefully will continue to see the value in it and keep following us by about a year."

That interpretation of things didn't exactly sit well with Jeff McDowell, RIM's senior vice president for business and platform marketing, who offered up a different perspective.

"I feel that we set out from the ground up to define a user experience that we felt would delight our customers, and we landed in a place that may look like other competitive devices," McDowell explained. "But there was no intention and no preconceived notion that this is what we want to end up looking like. In fact, I think QNX had that design lined up before we even started working with them."

McDowell went on to liken the similarities to designing cars over time, saying "there's one optimized shape that gets the best wind resistance, right? Well, when you're trying to optimize user experience that juggles multitasking, multiple apps open at once and on a small screen, you're going to get people landing on similar kinds of designs."

What this all amounts to is a bunch of posturing, this time instigated by HP, in what's shaping up to be a highly competitive market. HP, RIM, Motorola, Samsung, and everyone else is gunning for the iPad's position as the go-to slate, and it's going to come down the OS experience and app infrastructure. It's far too early to tell which overall platform has the edge.

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