SAP CIO Oliver Bussman talks BlackBerry PlayBook in business (video)

By Kevin Michaluk on 23 Feb 2011 11:54 am EST

As the BlackBerry PlayBook release draws closer the buzz is growing around it as well. In this video from last week Fox snagged a quick interview with SAP CIO Oliver Bussman. As he explains here, the PlayBook is a step ahead of the game as it is business ready and capable of multitasking unlike other tablets (I'm still not a believer that it really is "true" multitasking though - see my comment below. Yes, it runs multiple processes at once, but that's different than multitasking from a user perspective... I want to be able to browse a webpage on half of the display while being able to browse my music collection on the other half - actually doing two things at once).

Oliver praises the size and ease of use of the PlayBook and also talks a bit on the business aspects. The key question addressed here is "can I really run a billion dollar business on a tablet" and the answer is "absolutely". Thats good enough for me. Gotta love how excited the reporter is to have a pre-release BlackBerry PlayBook in her hands too. She's almost CrackBerry excited!  Thanks to Dave for sending this in!

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SAP CIO Oliver Bussman talks BlackBerry PlayBook in business (video)



In order for the PlayBook to not perform true multitasking, wouldn't QNX would have to had to purposely cripple the OS?

Preemptive multitasking creates great capabilities, like allowing the navigation between screens to run at a higher priority than background jobs (reduced "lag").

see my comment below.  I have no doubt that the PlayBook can fully multi-task... the issue right now is they haven't given the PlayBook a UI that allows you to fully multi-task (actually divide the screen into two sides and run an app on each half) so i can literally do more than one thing at a time.

Ah, but you can't really multi-task. Read your comment and mine at the exact same time. Or type and response with one hand and browse the web with the other. ;^)

I do understand exactly what you mean. Time for a dual screen PB!

yeah i agree, just dual screen it (ds style :P two playbooks together). Hdmi it to a tv or bluetooth your mobile where you can share two screens and multitask between them. Also the programs are still running in the background (optional) unlike other tablets - this in itself is awesome and you'll find a hard time viewing two things at once on a 7-inch screen to begin with.

also Im fine the way it multitask. I'll do the equivalent of alt tabbing on the playbook but I totally understand kev pov since it'd be nice to view two programs and drag and drop info into another with ease without having to minimise one to get to the other.

Come on man... Apple's got it locked on march the 2nd , RIM is in a gamble here if they don't make the right move.. The sooner the better

Like the Xoom went sooner? Apple waited for their main competitor to go first; now who's going to preorder a xoom with the inevitable release of the ipad2 a week later?

RIM, stop freakin' teasing everybody with these marketing tricks and launch this bloody thing!!! You're going to loose thousands possible customers now that iPad2 is available next week!!!

I think its true multi tasking

When is this thing coming out? the xoom was announced much later than the playbook and its coming out 2mrw, ipad 2 is about to come out and more android tablets are coming out too. I only have my eyes on the playbook but it seems like it will never come out lol

I talked about it a bit on our last (or second last.. I can't remember) podcast...
There's two ways to look at multi-tasking. On the actual hardware/software process side, and on the UI side.

To me what matters is what I can do with the device itself.. can I actually multitask with it. YES, the PlayBook can run multiple processes at once... we've seen that been demoed to death now, and it can definitely do this better than any other platform out there right now (when you see multiple vids/open gl apps all minimized and running at once, that's awesome).

But from a user standpoint, with the PlayBook UI the way it's designed now, you're still effectively only ever using one app at a time (exception being when you have music playing in the background and are doing something else since listening doesn't require visuals).
In order for me to really call it true multitasking on the PlayBook is be able to actually do 2 (or more) things at once. Right now I can watch a movie (and minimize it to the launcher) and have a web page open... but I can't scroll that web page while it's minimized. I have to enlarge/open the browser (which then hides the video). I'm not doing two things at once. Yes, two processes are open at once, BUT THAT'S NOT MULTITASKING. What I'd love to be able to do is from the minimized apps, actually tap on two at the the same time, which would then enlarge and run both apps at once in a useable state. So I could have a movie playing half screen and then browse the web on the other half of the screen. Or heck, maybe open two web browsers side by side.

I'm sitting at my computer right now as I type this. I'm typing in the web browser, and open to the right is an RSS reader client. I'm seeing and using both at once. I can't do that on PlayBook. I'd have to open the web browser, then go back to the RSS reader client.
The term true multitasking keeps getting thrown around in the tablet world (i've seen android tablets and phones refer to true multitasking as well), but really it's not from a user perspective. For the most part you're still only doing one thing at a time and swapping between open apps. Granted, with smaller screen size looking at a bunch of apps open and tiny at once might not be all that compelling of an experience, but then it would be true multitasking.

But at least on the PlayBook, what I'd really like them to do is go that next step... tap two apps at once on the launcher strip of open apps and have them both open to the front and share the screen. That would sooo greatly improve the use of the device, and then at least i would agree it's TRUE multitasking.
lol.. aren't you glad you asked? :)

Well with that definition, no device other than a computer truly multitasks, including our blackberries, which for years we praised for being great multitaskers. It would be cool though to have several windows open at once on the screen.

Indeed, I am glad that I asked - because you are correct, technically. From a human perspective, the way the user interacts with the PlayBook is not TECHNICALLY multi-tasking. But from a software perspective, as you said - to the computer, that is multitasking. I was working on a CS assignment today and had my text editor half screen and command prompt on the other half, and I believe that's what you mean - but you also mentioned what I would say as well... I don't think a 7" display would be big enough to make the user want to do two things at once, even though the multi-touch display is certainly capable of it. We'll see, maybe by the PlayBook 2 or 3 we'll have the level of software that we're dreaming of at the moment haha. Thanks for the response.

RIM needs to release this thing asap.

I'm with you on that... compared to other phones we've seen RIM release that have been less than perfect, the PlayBook seems ready to ROCK.  I want one soo bad!

That's a rather minor quibble that's dependent on your definition of multi-tasking. The processes are running, they aren't suspended, the display of one program in full view is an aesthetic choice. Trying to cram two full screens on a 7" screen wouldn't look that pleasing.

And there is no evidence that it can't be done on the PlayBook.

Quibble yes, but if you're going to keep saying TRUE multitasking, then it should be TRUE. 

I know there is no evidence that it can't be done on the PlayBook... because well, I KNOW FOR A FACT THIS CAN BE DONE.  It's at the UI level and not the backend infrastructure level. It is a doable thing. And then there would be true multitasking (and no need to quibble over definitions).

I'm just saying... if RIM wanted to really set themselves apart from every other tablet and platform right now, they'd allow me to spilt the screen in two and run two apps together. 

Of course, maybe they're just saving this feature for their BIGGER PlayBook. :)

I know it can be done.. QNX rocks.  We just need to see it happen.

Everyone runs around saying they have push when it's still mostly polling so I'll let RIM slide on taking a little leeway.

I understand where you're coming from, but it is the first version. I'm sure they'll be coming up with all kinds of features once the stress of getting the first PlayBook out the door is off their shoulders.

QNX supports the situation you've described, but the decision was made to view tasks in either minimized or maximized mode (no sharing)... now if BB comes out with a 10" PlayBook there might be enough screen real estate to do what you've described.

We already know you can view a movie via HDMI and use the screen for something else. I also suspect that if you have an RSS feed open and a youtube vid open side by side you'll see both updated/playing in real-time. Let's go a bit farther and open 4 windows, just to be certain we've got 2 apps running on each proc.

It is "true" multitasking, the GUI just doesn't have the software feature (side-by-side) that you've described.

My 2 cents.

100% Agree with you.  It's true multitasking on the backend.. just not on the front end...  I want to see it on the frontend.  Would have been nice for it to be there on PlayBook one, but I'll take it on the 10" PlayBook 2. :)

I'm reading in the comments and not sure where to post this. But when I first read Kevin's complaint on true multi tasking I had to figure out what he ment. Then I watch the video of them playing two games at the same time. Yes the screen was not 50/50 split. But the demoer was still playing both games at the same time. Is this not true mutitasking Kevin?

nice idea and actually that is what i always wanted. i never really thought about multitasking on phones or tablets but i always had the feeling that i was missing something (e.g on my old iPhone). and now that you mentioned it i totally get what you mean because that is just one of the prior things that still seperates computers from mobile devices!

But can't I open up the app switcher on the PB and watch a movie while my twitter is open and refreshing? Granted, you can't communicate with either app at that time, but you can watch 2 things at once on the PB.

I agree with you, as I have 2 monitors on my computer and I truely multitask ALL THE TIME, but that isn't really feasible on a smaller screened table.

Actually, it DOES allow you to use two apps at once - as in, enjoy one app, while using another one. Two ways:

(a) One of the videos showed how you can run in minimized mode, pull up the virtual keyboard (diagonal up swipe), and use the virtual keyboard on the session in the middle, while watching the other windows at the same time.

(b) The demo with TAT played a full screen video on the HDMI out while letting the user do something else on the playbook itself.

Will the UI be updated in the future to make this easier? You betcha. But it's possible now, in a limited fashion - which is more than any other tablet can do.

Hasn't one of the You Tube vids shown the Quake demo running alonside need for speed being played?

I remember the guy struggled to manage both, but it even for the 10 seconds he tried, it was definately both running and being interacted with.


2:00mins in to the vid

You can multitask in the manner that you are talking about if you use the HDMI out. You can have a movie (or Power Point presentation) playing out externally while you are doing other things on the actual device.

Asking the same from a 7" screen is useless unless you are talking about widgets, etc.

From a male perspective, I am first astonished that you are a multi-tasker. I am male and I am not. Most of my male friends don't even know the word. My wife joke all the time that men can't really multi-task. So to read that you want two windows open at once to do stuff is strange. But if that is one of your many talents so be it. However, I do think the playbook has it's owe way of multi-tasking that will be enough for us less talented folks. Also, I think a 7" screen would not be the greatest size for slitting the screen. 10" and 9.7' screens will be better for that. Personally I don't feel a device that is as portable as the playbook is, need that. Portable to me means I can move around, travel with it and cover all the basic computing task. Maybe even one or two high performance task. A Less portable device is better for split screen task when we are home or hotel room etc. Guess there will be always different visions to what people think multi-tasking is, or should be on mobile devices. For sure it will come down to how much of it we need on the device we are buying.

On a finally note. I am sick and tired of the videos. I want the bloody thing in my hand. RIM is such a slow moving company. I love blackberry but its painful to watch the competition so far ahead. Come RIM get cracking.

Doesn't multi-tasking refer to the device and not the user? The device can. To me the user can move rather seamlessly between applications.

IMO Kevin is getting pretty finicky with what one can or can't do in beta OS 1.0.

Kevin - you're bang on here, I agree completely. When I saw Dan Dodge give the detailed overview at DevCon he explained that there is a separate part of the QNX OS that handles rendering on the screen - it's the same part that allows the filmstrip of icons that we see demo'd all the time. That component (can't recall it's name, probably lost my notes) could easily enable what you're describing.

I was thinking people would want to have email + bbm open at the same time, or browser + bbm.

I wonder how long this will take for RIM to implement?


Is your answer here?

The media player

What we've been shown of the built-in media player coming on the PlayBook shows a nice interface, with album and playlist thumbnails as buttons and detailed track listings.

Dodge calls it "a full-featured media engine" that can read just about any file system you can think of (FAT, NTFS, HFS, SD cards – and network file systems like NFS and SMB over Wi-Fi). A media sync component keeps track of what storage you've connected or disconnected to keep the SQL database of available music, video and pictures up to date; this also stores ID tags for music and EXIF data for images.

When you create a playlist, the media engine runs an SQL query to build it (which should make working with even large music libraries fast) and loads codecs from the codec engine.

PlayBook media

MEDIA HANDLING: The media engine in the PlayBook OS

The PlayBook specs say it can handle 1080p video, and the screen has 1024 by 600 widescreen resolution; the media engine treats the screen as having both RGB and YUV layers and the hardware rendering can drive the RGB layer directly, whether it's going out to the HDMI port at 1080p or doing hardware blitting to scale video down to fit on screen.

Alpha blending

ALPHA BLENDING: The PlayBook treats the display as if it was two layers – and it can handle two displays

The YUV layer is 'on top' of the RGB layer so video controls can be alpha-blended on top of the video you're playing rather than being around it.

Under the covers

QNX has real multi-tasking and (with the dual 1GHz cores in the PlayBook) multi-processing; Dodge talks about running dozens of applications at once and swiping between them using the navigator; apps will zoom up from the central strip of previews as you switch back to them and zoom down when you swipe across to another app.

Will you be able to see more one app on screen at once? The QNX microkernel could certainly deliver that, says Dodge; it's a question of what makes the best user experience.

"The apps you see in the navigator; you're actually seeing the app - they're running. Usually we tell those apps to stop to save battery life, but when we had it in debug mode we could watch OpenGL in this window here and there's a video running and they're all completely live.

To go left or right, I swipe and those are live apps sliding across the screen. Right now everybody is looking at an app per screen but it doesn't have to be that way. You'll see some amazing things we haven't seen before - and that could be one of them."

Front navigator

ALL LIVE APPS: Each of the app windows you can see is a live, running app, not just a graphical preview

Apps can certainly have multiple windows and the composition engine that handles all the different windows (and is also responsible for taking touch and keyboard input and passing it on to apps) is particularly sophisticated; Dodge calls it one of the key capabilities in the system.

"All these applications they all have their own renderers. So if it's an OpenGL game, it's rendered as OpenGL. WebKit is a software rasteriser, Adobe AIR apps rasterise on OpenGL.

Different rendering engines

These programs all have different rendering engines that are rendering content to surfaces and the surface are controlled by the composition manager and handed out to the apps." And those multiple windows can actually be using more than one of the different application platforms that the PlayBook will run.

The simplest example would be HTML content displayed in a web view with the interface around it built in AIR, but apps can do a lot more, Dodge told us.

"I may have an Adobe AIR application, I may have a Java window, I may have an embedded HTML 5 renderer which is a different surface, and I may actually have video playing could be yet another surface, which is talking to a hardware YUV video player."

Dodge also mentions handling PDFs natively for display and, he says, "there are a bunch of other views that we will be announcing".


COMPOSITION: You can have multiple apps, with multiple windows arranged on top of each other, each using a different renderer; the composition engine puts everything in the right place

Unlike most smartphone apps (but like desktop OSs), not everything in a window has to fit on screen at once; a concept Dodge calls a viewport. "We can render something bigger than the screen and pan over it with smooth hardware scrolling; browsers do that a lot."

Again, that viewport can include multiple types of content."If you're doing a pan, it may actually pan across other surfaces like video and it all has to work seamlessly together. This is not easy to do but we've been working at this and this is one of the areas that is key to making the system feel fluid and natural."

And while apps get less CPU power in the background, they're not frozen or suspended (and they'll only be shut down if you run out of memory completely).

Read more:


So Kevin, If I recall correctly what you are talking about is actually somewhat displayed in the Need4Speed Demo.. Where the guy is still driving and watching the Quake3 demo at the same time, with outh switching screens.. and it looks like there is still room to view a 3rd screen..


The screens are obviously pretty small, and hence would not be very useful in that size. I assume once a gesture is introduced into that screen that it automatically maximizes pushing the other panes out of the way.

So like you said I think it's definitey a UI limitation, but the possibility to do so is definitely there.

Edit: We must keep in mind that this is not a computer. And to actually be able to see something to be like PIP: Web in the bigger pane and BBM in smaller pane on the lower part of the screen.


That would be a whole different something we have never seen before on a mobile device.

I think the filmstrip view that the guy above is talking is a lot more doable and somewhat already there..

SAP was an early adopter of the iPad so it's a positive sign for RIM that they have their top executives shopping the PlayBook around.

Kevin - while you're using your soapbox to make one irrelevant point your completely missing another - the CIO of SAP, one of the most respected IT companies out there, is championing the Playbook. CIOs of corporations live and die by things that guys like this say so that is a very positive step for quick acceptance and adoption of the Playbook.

haha. AMEN to that.  thanks for bringing the conversation back on topic...  If you're a CIO and reading this.... buy a bunch of PlayBooks! :)

I see what you mean kevin. Like on a PC you can split screen. So you can look something up on the internet let's say and write an email at the same time. But its not a PC maybe its tablet multitasking? But well see I'm sure RIM can do it in there UI think that was mentioned in your podcast. Need to see the final product. To many questions and no answers.

On a split screen computer--- you still have to move the mouse back and forth between to two screens when doing any type of actions( eg. typing or scrolling) on that screen. ( Same effort of using the finger to move between apps)

Your only viewing two open apps at the same time... but this also only works well because of the size of the secondary montiors.

I have emails on one screen and my work programs on another---- if two apps had fit/share on a 7 inch screen, not sure it would really make sense anyways...

Question i would like to know is....

What happens if you connect your PB via HDMI to 46' screen---- real estate is not an excuse now.... could the OS be changed/modified for that..... i bet it could be done---

Nice plug for RIM. To me this shows that Blackberry still has a ton of pull in the Business Cmmunity. First the annoucer is excited, I think even more than she would be if she had an iPad 2. Second the SAP guy clearly prefers the Playbook over the Apple counterparts.

Finally, sorry but your comments are wrong about multitaking with two windows open, by your own definition you are not turly multitasking with two windows open, all you are doing is making it easier for your own brain to switch back and forth between the two windows. When you look at one window you are thinking about one thing when you look over the other window you are thinking about another. So when you get down to it all you are complaining about is having to do a finger swipe.

To see this more clearly understadn that with a dual core processor two things are actually being done at the same time. When you look at two open windows your brain is not doing that. True the brain does multitask, you are blinking your eyes etc. when you are thinking about a problem but looking between two windows just aint it.

For me, I'll take a finger swipe over carrying around something that is 10 inches and hard to carry any day. People that actually carry around 10 inch tablets just look strange. They are only trivially smaller and lighter than my Sony viao Z and about 100 times less powerful, so your point in carrying it around is?????

agreed with the 10" in public looking strange.

also agree with what you're saying... even with multiple windows open you're typically looking at one thing at a time.  

i still think there's a big difference though between multitasking at the UI level (multiple windows open and usable at once) vs. at the process level from a user perspective of the device.  because if what you're saying is that it only matters that you're working on one thing at a time anyways so you don't need two things open in front of your eyes at once, then apple's method of multitasking (suspend) is just fine... then who cares if a device keeps background apps open or not as long as it brings them to life quick enough when u click back to it in the spot that you were and that it feels like it was open the whole time? do whatever saves the battery and lets me work on one thing at a time.  to me, the end goal.. the persuit of true multitasking if you will is this side by side two (or more) open and usable windows in front of my face type of user experience.

but it's all good.  a dumb little point that opens up a lot of conversation.

Understand, but not sure it's quite the same as apple because I can see asking software like SAP to really calculate something (that could take a minute instead of a couple of second) and throwing that in the background while you answer email, or surf the web. In that case you really don't want suspend to happen while the app is in the background.

The other thing of course is that apps have built in multitasking (yes that is background stuff) but that's probably what makes guys like this SAP guy so please with the playbook.

One way I truely multitask is if I am copying information from my excel sheet on one monitor and typing it into my email on my second monitor. At that time, I am reading from excel while typing an email. That is TRUE multitasking and that is not possible on any tablet out right now (or coming out in the next few months).

I agree with Kevin on his point. I never really even thought about this until he raised the point. It would be a great way of leveraging the screen real estate of a tablet, and would help fight the negative thought that a tablet is some supersized smartphone (see Galaxy Tab).

In our business computer labs, we always have 2 monitors as we're constantly reading our .pdf files while on Excel. If QNX can really duplicate this desktop experience, without draining battery life too much (even though I know QNX is already doing it -- though not yet physically drawing the second, third, etc app), it'd really set the Playbook apart from every other copycat tablet that's hitting selves and the soon-to-be-announced-and-likely-subsequently-released-iPad "2".

i understand what Kevin is saying--- makes sense in a way...

imagine split screen and then trying to use the PB keyboard on this 7inch tablet... not gonna see much.

I've rarely seen such an empty TV segment...It's an ad for SAP, not really the Playbook and we don't get to see anything.
The software runs on the other platforms as well and the only competitive advantage that is mentioned is the multi-tasking which the iPad 2 will have and which the iPhone already has.
They need to send people that are actually using the device on the show. Consultants, data miners, etc. not a senior exec that has no clue...

"the only competitive advantage that is mentioned is the multi-tasking which the iPad 2 will have and which the iPhone already has."


No wait a minute.....


Don't come on this website if you are going to put up stuff like that.

Well said, Kevin. As of the moment, the Playbook really hasn't shown us the true multitasking RIM is boasting. What is being demonstrated is exactly what Apple is doing: task switching. I think that those who can't agree with your point is being a little too defensive.

Of course, we see a glimpse of the "true multitasking" when that one rep was trying to steer his car and watch the Quake demo, but both windows were minimized, ready to switch.

I think for me, a sampling of true multitasking would be a picture in picture type thing. Regardless, I'm so excited for this tablet, and I don't even know if my wife will let me buy it.

QNX is a true multitasking OS.

How a GUI permits you to supply input/output to tasks has little to do with whether an OS is multitasking. Your example of pic-in-pic wouldn't qualify as true multitasking by your earlier definition, it's exactly the same as having two small windows side-by-side playing video.

I think RIM is giving the majority of people what they want, and the consumer market has spoken; people don't want a classical OS like Win 7 on a tablet, they want the "app" approach. For better or for worse, apps require less thinking by the user.

Look at how many complaints RIM has received because there won't be an app icon for, let's say, Gmail, even though a great web browser exists.

Rant mode off. OK, let's get that release date and pricing!

Come on guys...

You are able to work on a Pearl 3G, but splitting a 7"...

Would love it, but as a developer it would be hard to manage all possible screen resolutions.

Displaying different apps to hdmi will be perfect. Watch a movie while browsing...