BlackBerry 4G LTE PlayBook Arriving in Canada Aug. 2, U.S. in 'Coming Months'

Research In Motion has introduced a speedier new tablet, the 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook. Optimized to update to BlackBerry 10 when it arrives, the tablet will debut in Canada Aug. 9 before shipping to the U.S. in the "coming months."

Research In Motion has introduced a 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) version of its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, marking a bright spot in what have been bleak days for the BlackBerry maker. While the tablet will begin shipping from Canadian carriers Bell, Rogers and Telus Aug. 9, it will head down to the United States, and elsewhere, in the coming months, RIM said in an Aug. 2 statement.

€œThe new 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook offers a broad range of premium features, including a stunning 7-inch display, front and rear-facing HD video cameras, HDMI [High-Definition Multimedia Interface] out and stereo speakers,€ David J. Smith, executive vice president of mobile computing, said in the statement.

These come in addition, Smith added, to its €œpremium performance on high-speed cellular networks, helping customers to be more productive than ever and to make the most of their time on the go.€

The tablet measures 7.6 by 5.1 by 0.4 inches and weighs 0.9 pounds. The display resolution is 1,024 by 600, and the cellular-plus-WiFi version runs a 1.5GHz processor and has 1GB of on-board RAM.

Likely to be as great an incentive as its LTE speeds is the PlayBook€™s ability to upgrade to the BlackBerry 10 OS when RIM releases it in early 2013.

Executives have called BlackBerry 10 €œfantastic€ and the early reception from developers €œphenomenal,€ while repeating that it€™s not just an OS upgrade but an entirely new platform that RIM is counting on to get it through the next decade. They€™ve also described the PlayBook, which shares a QNX software-based heritage, as a precursor to BlackBerry 10, if not a sneak peek.

While some consumer and enterprise customers may pause before purchasing a new BlackBerry 7 handset, which won€™t be able to receive the upgrade, those interested in a PlayBook have a green light; the tablet will benefit from all that RIM currently has in the works.

The new PlayBook also overcomes its predecessor€™s email-based shortcomings. The LTE Playbook features a unified inbox for managing multiple personal and corporate email accounts, as well as messages from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There are built-in Calendar and Contacts apps, also with integration to social networks, and access to the BlackBerry App World store, which RIM says now offers access to thousands of apps for both work and play.

RIM has worked hard to re-brand its former all-work-and-no-play image, and to this end, the PlayBook also runs BlackBerry Balance, a technology that enables corporate and personal data to happily co-exist on the device, but can also separate them when necessary.

The PlayBook can also be managed by RIM€™s Mobile Fusion mobile-device-management solution. Mobile Fusion marked a turning point for RIM, facing the fact that RIM€™s home turf has been overrun with Android devices and Apple iPhones and iPads and enabling IT managers to oversee and securely control the lot of them.

While the LTE PlayBook is the rare device not being held back by RIM€™s delayed BlackBerry 10 launch, the tablet may require the halo effect of the platform€™s (promised) success to really take off. During RIM€™s last fiscal quarter, it sold only 260,000 PlayBook units.

The tablet could also receive a sales boost from the quick-growing spread of LTE networks. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins told analysts during a June 28 earnings call, putting a bright twist on the facts, that many of its wireless carrier partners preferred a first-quarter launch of BlackBerry 10, €œsince their new global LTE networks will be getting in place by that time.€