Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet, which is targeting the corporate market where the company has been strong, will go on sale April 19. Three Wi-Fi models will be available -- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB -- at $499, $599 and $699, respectively. Pre-orders started being accepted Tuesday.
The tablet will be available on its launch date through more than 20,000 retail outlets in the U.S. -- including Best Buy, AT&T, Office Depot, RadioShack, Staples, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon Wireless -- and in Canada. Versions supporting LTE, HSPA+ and WiMAX are also planned.
'First Professional-Grade Tablet'
RIM is describing the PlayBook as "the world's first professional-grade tablet." It offers a seven-inch, 1024x600 WSVGA capacitive LCD touchscreen, a one-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1080p HDMI output, dual 1080p HD cameras -- a three-megapixel on the front and a five-megapixel on the back -- for video conferencing and video capture, up to 1GB of RAM, GPS, multitasking, support for Adobe Flash, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a digital compass.
The tablet runs on its own BlackBerry tablet OS, based on QNX technology that was acquired last spring when RIM bought the software systems unit of Harman International. Most other tablets, except for Apple's and Hewlett-Packard's, are using Google's open-source Android operating system.
There are several factors that could affect the PlayBook's reception. One is the app ecosystem, especially given the tablet's unique OS. Apple's iPads have more than 60,000 tablet-specific apps available, and apps for Android-based tablets are growing. RIM has been working on software to enable the PlayBook to run Android apps.
Another factor is battery life, which -- for a device that is frequently carried to meetings -- becomes a critical component. Finally, there is the tie-in with RIM's flagship product, the BlackBerry smartphone.
'Pent-Up Demand' in Enterprises
The PlayBook can be tied via Bluetooth to a BlackBerry, providing a secure gateway for connecting to corporate e-mail, contacts and calendars, as well as providing certain functions, such as contact syncing. This may -- or may not -- be an attractive feature for IT departments concerned about managing a large fleet of tablets.
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, said there is a "pent-up demand for alternative tablet choices in the enterprise," which could play to the PlayBook's favor.
The PlayBook's initial rollout, he said, will include targeting of that enterprise market, where Apple's iPad may not be as dominant as it has been in the consumer market. Rubin noted that RIM also intends to pursue the consumer market as well.
As for the apps issue, Rubin said that, until there are a substantial number of apps available for the PlayBook, the tablet "still has a lot of capabilities," including web browsing, e-mail, e-publishing, and media playback.
Posted: 2011-03-22 @ 12:35pm PT
great addition to the market. will rim keep the tethering to BlackBerry capability for their playbook, or did they bow to providers who want to charge?