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RIM to Launch PlayBook Tablet with Event on April 14

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April 12, 2011

RIM to Launch PlayBook Tablet with Event on April 14

By Lance Whitney, Journalist, IT Consultant, Web Developer

With lots of buzz so far about Research In Motion’s BlackBerry (News - Alert) PlayBook, the company will officially kick off its new tablet at a special event in New York City this Thursday, April 14.

RIM is promising a launch of the PlayBook at the event to be held in downtown Manhattan on Thursday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. No details have been spilled so far, but presumably RIM will show off the tablet and hopefully give attendees a chance to check it out themselves through some hands-on demos.

Joining a torrent of other tablets slated to be launched this year, the PlayBook is highly anticipated as it will mark RIM’s first entry into this hot and growing market.

From the hardware view, the PlayBook will be similar to other tablets in certain key features but ramp up the game in other ways, especially as it tries to appeal to the business crowd.

Powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor, the tablet will include 1GB of RAM (News - Alert). But in choosing the screen size, RIM bypassed the typical 10-inch display found on the iPad and Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom and instead opted for the 7-inch screen found on the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Dell (News - Alert) Streak 7 and the upcoming HTC Evo View 4G.

Though some may question the decision to go for the smaller display, I personally like the 7-inch form factor for a tablet. Having handled different size tablets, I find it easier to carry the 7-inch devices around with me and hold them with both hands. In portrait mode, you can actually type on the virtual keyboard with your thumbs, just as you can on a smartphone. I think that’s a smart move for RIM as it tries to capture existing BlackBerry users, who are accustomed to thumb typing on their phones.

Aside from the processor and screen size, the PlayBook includes a 3-megapixel camera on the front and a 5-megapixel camera on the back for video capture and conferencing. USB and HDMI ports are both included; the latter of value to business customers who can easily hook up the tablet to a TV or projector when giving presentations.

The PlayBook will of course include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but some models will also support 3G and 4G. And though the 4G tablet will initially be available only through Sprint via WiMax, RIM will offer models designed to use LTE and HSPA+, indicating that it will find its way onto the high speed networks of Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile (News - Alert), respectively.

From the software view, RIM is outfitting the PlayBook with the QNX operating system, which it acquired last year. But in a nod to the increasing impact of Android (News - Alert), RIM recently said that the PlayBook would also be able to run Android apps. And unlike the iPad, the PlayBook will play nicely with Adobe Flash.

Of course, the PlayBook will face competition from Android tablets but even more so from the iPad 2, which has seen huge demand since its debut last month. Though the iPad has traditionally been geared toward the consumer market, it’s been heavily adopted in the corporate world as part of the growing consumerization of IT.

On the flip side, the PlayBook is in many ways being directed more toward the enterprise arena than to the average consumer. As expected, it’s especially designed for companies that already use BlackBerry devices on their networks. Like its smartphone cousins, the PlayBook will integrate with RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server for organizations that already store and secure their corporate emails and other data internally. A BlackBerry tablet will also communicate wirelessly with a BlackBerry phone to keep their respective calendars and scheduling features in sync.

Will RIM’s focus on the enterprise and existing BlackBerry customers help the PlayBook succeed in the business market? I think the iPad juggernaut will be difficult to match, even among business users. But if it can make the PlayBook appealing enough and offer a solid user experience, RIM should be able to carve out a healthy niche for itself.

Currently available for pre-order, the Wi-Fi edition of the PlayBook will retail for $499 for 16GB of storage, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB. The tablet will be available for consumers starting April 19.

Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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