Research In Motion plans on marketing its PlayBook tablet PC for less than $500 in North America, according to a new report. The 7-inch device-which which RIM expects will compete with both the Apple iPad and a growing number of Google Android tablets-will most likely hit store shelves in the first quarter 2011.
"The product will be very competitively priced," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie reportedly told Bloomberg Nov. 10. It will be sold, not only through carriers, but also by Target and Best Buy.
The PlayBook's 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM will match competitors' tablet offerings; front- and rear-facing cameras to enable video conferencing are also offered. RIM chose to develop a tablet-specific operating system, based on QNX technology, rather than modifying the BlackBerry 6 OS for a larger screen. The browser will reportedly support Adobe Flash and HTML5, as well as multitasking and high-definition video.
During the PlayBook's September unveiling at RIM's DevCon conference, company officials indicated that the tablet would be marketed towards the same businesspeople who constitute the BlackBerry's traditional group of users. However, Balsillie's comment about Target and Best Buy suggests RIM could also be making a substantial consumer play. This seems logical, considering that RIM's most recent smartphone-the BlackBerry Torch 9800-has been offered as a crossover device to both consumers and businesses.
But the PlayBook faces substantial competition in the tablet market. In addition to the Apple iPad, Android-based tablets from manufacturers such as Samsung and Dell are being prepped for launch over the next few months. What's more, Hewlett-Packard plans to release tablets running both Palm webOS and Windows 7. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, though, the iPad holds 95.5 percent of the worldwide tablet market for the moment.
"The tablet wars are up and running," Neil Mawston, a Strategy Analytics director, wrote in a statement accompanying the firm's Nov. 2 report. "Apple has quickly leveraged its famous brand, an extensive retail presence and user-friendly design to develop the tablet market into a multi-billion-dollar business. Android, Microsoft, MeeGo, WebOS, BlackBerry and other platforms are trailing in Apple's wake, and they already have much ground to make up."
But RIM seems determined to challenge Apple's market share.
"For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that 7-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market," Balsillie wrote in an Oct. 19 corporate blog posting-pushing back at Apple CEO Steve Jobs' earlier swipes at the viability of 7-inch tablets- "and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real Web experience."
A price point of just south of $500, of course, would make the PlayBook's price competitive with not only the iPad, but also Samsung's Galaxy Tab.