It's the Torch's fault. Well, I suppose it's originally the Storm's fault, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I've had some difficulty in actually using the PlayBook's keyboard. I can see all the keys without problem; it's pressing them in the right order that's the trouble. When I type with a full computer keyboard, I don't really think about the individual letters I'm using to craft these words. I taught myself to type when I was 8 (Mavis Beacon rules!); I've been typing without looking for years.
Even typing on the BlackBerry smartphone's keyboard, I can just about type by touch alone. I, like many of you, have trained myself on using the BlackBerry's keyboard very quickly. The keyboard and the operating system work hand-in-hand to make this as easy as possible. Auto-text and word substitution on your BlackBerry can become your best friend. Youre becomes you're without a thought. Double-space after a word to insert a period and automatically capitalize the next letter. In fact, that one typing shortcut is probably the most used on your smartphone. How many of you have double-spaced on your home computer and were then momentarily confused when the period didn‘t show up?
Then there's the virtual keyboard on the Torch which is ultimately the descendant of the keyboard on the Storm devices. Apparently, I am an oddity in the BlackBerry world; I use and like the virtual keyboard on the Torch. Though many people don't seem to believe me, the secret is to trust the keyboard. I don't have to touch all the right keys to type what I want; in fact, frequently I don‘t. The operating system is clever enough to guess at what I meant to type; the OS knows I wanted to type "CrackBerry" when my thumbs actually spell "Ctsclberrh."
That brings us to the virtual keyboard on the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The PlayBook's keyboard features none of these enhancements. Considering just how important the keyboard is to life on a BlackBerry, the virtual one on the PlayBook leaves something to be desired. BlackBerry users have a difficult time with the Caps and Numbers/Symbols on the PlayBook's keyboard because the two keys are reversed on the smartphone keyboard. We have trained ourselves that Caps is down and numbers to the side. Not true on the PlayBook.
It all comes down to this. I have a BlackBerry Torch and a BlackBerry PlayBook. Depending on whether I use the physical or virtual keyboard on the Torch or the keyboard on the PlayBook, I have to adapt how I type on the three different keyboards. Where my typing on the Torch is automatically corrected for me and I can type without thinking, I have a great deal of trouble typing precisely on the PlayBook. I have to consider which virtual keyboard I'm using: sometimes caps lock is down, other times it's to the side.
We're pretty sure at least a couple people at Research In Motion read our little blog (Hi, Douglas!), so please consider this a bit of friendly constructive criticism. Arguably, the keyboard is the most important part of a BlackBerry. Through it, a mobile internet device becomes a mobile communications hub. Countless hours of design and contemplation have gone in to the BlackBerry keyboard. Mike Lazaridis' white paper "Success Lies in Paradox" explored the efficient use of tiny keyboards, ultimately leading to the very first BlackBerry devices. Auto-text and word substitution on BlackBerry smartphones are best in class. You'll never see a website devoted to correction failures on a BlackBerry.
All I'm saying is that it's time for the PlayBook's keyboard to feel some of that love, devotion, and attention.