BlackBerry maker Research In Motion reportedly has two new PlayBook tablets in the works for 2012, according to a road map leak reported by N4BB.com. If the report holds true, in April, RIM fans should expect a 7-inch 3G+ PlayBook-an unclear distinction aside from confirming there's no 4G on board-and a 10-inch LTE-equipped version in December.
The first BlackBerry 10 smartphone-which was pushed to mid-2012 due to a delay in its dual-core Long-Term Evolution (LTE) chipset-is expected to arrive in September but be on view, behind glass that is, at February's Mobile World Congress 2012 event in Barcelona.
Rounding out the road map, according to the report, will be the PlayBook Admin Service over the summer, the release of Mobile Fusion in April and two new Curve handsets headed for developing markets. While RIM is struggling for sales in the United States, co-CEO Jim Balsillie has pointed out that the company is the No. 1 smartphone vendor in Latin America, has broken sales records in South Africa, and is a top contender in such markets as Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia.
Sales of current PlayBook models have been weak. During RIM's fiscal 2012 third quarter, it sold just 150,000 units, and retailers such as Best Buy have slashed the prices of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models to $300, from $500, $600 and $700, respectively. As ever, though, RIM executives have expressed confidence that they have a sure-to-win plan in place.
"We're committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook, and it's an important aspect of our longer-term smartphone and mobile-computing strategy," RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said during the Dec. 15 earnings call. "While we would have preferred the initial launch to have been smoother, I firmly believe that the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet remains the most secure and most advanced tablet platform on the market today."
Lazaridis highlighted the PlayBook's real-time multitasking capabilities, Flash-enabled browsing, HTML5 and Flash video streaming, and open-standards-based platform, adding that PlayBook 2.0 will "further enhance" the tablet's attributes.
Introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) the week of Jan. 9, the 2.0 update was shown to additionally feature a Video Store, where visitors can rent or purchase updated document-editing capabilities, a new reading view for the Web browser, and a tool for rich-text email composing and editing.
Details on the rumored upcoming PlayBooks are murky, though one or both models are expected to receive a pixel-enhanced 1,280-by-800-resolution display.
Mobile Fusion, introduced in November 2011, is arguably RIM's concession that the enterprise is a place in which it will have to play nicely with Apple and Android devices, if it's to remain at all. The solution will enable CIOs and IT administrators to manage, not only BlackBerry handsets, but also Android devices, iPhones and iPads via a Web-based console.
Amid RIM's stumbles-which have included modest sales of significantly redesigned offerings, service outages and a branding snafu in which the name BBX OS, after a fanfare-rich introduction, was shown to infringe on a trademark and so was renamed to BlackBerry 10-shareholders have called on Balsillie and Lazaridis to stop sharing the CEO position.
In an acknowledgement of shareholder discontent, the pair announced during the third-quarter earnings call that, to "further demonstrate our passion, alignment and commitment to RIM's long-term success," effective immediately, their annual salaries have been reduced to $1.
The two were "leaving no stone unturned" in considering how to deliver on all that BlackBerry's stakeholders, and its $75 million subscribers, expect from the company, Balsillie said.