INSIDE MOBILE: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: The Secret's in the Sauce

RIM has joined Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab by announcing a new tablet computer called BlackBerry PlayBook. But, rather than trying to go head-to-head with Apple iPad in the consumer market, RIM has positioned BlackBerry PlayBook as a tablet designed for the non-ruggedized enterprise market. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy explains why the most important part of RIM's announcement is the BlackBerry PlayBook's operating system, not its hardware.


RIM has announced the BlackBerry PlayBook, their new tablet device. But the most important part of the announcement is the BlackBerry tablet's operating system, built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. Thus, the secret of this new tablet is in the sauce powering PlayBook rather than in the hardware. Here's why.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has a 7-inch capacitive touch-screen (same as Samsung's Galaxy Tab) and will be available in the United States early next year and internationally soon thereafter. No pricing was announced, but I'm sure the price will be competitive, in the $400 to $500 range for the basic unit.

The PlayBook features front and rear-facing cameras (you know the next iPad will include this) capable of 1080p video via a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output. It even has a USB port and micro HDMI slot-two things I wish Apple would include in the iPad!

Although the first PlayBook is just WiFi only, it's likely that the tablet is already undergoing tests with wireless operators, which should result in a cellular wireless version coming to market by next spring.

QNX Neutrino operating system

QNX is a richly-featured multitasking operating system that compares well with Google Android, Apple iOS and HP/Palm webOS. RIM purchased QNX last year. The operating system is deployed in a number of markets such as transportation and nuclear energy. Developers have found the BlackBerry development environment difficult for full-featured applications since it's based on a limited Java virtual machine (JVM). However, RIM's QNX Neutrino operating system provides support for Adobe Flash and Air, Java, HTML 5.0 and C++.

The QNX Neutrino operating system is the home run of the PlayBook. It is a full-fledged multitasking operating system that will provide developers with core operating system services and tools to build a wide range of (mostly enterprise) applications.

But make no mistake about it: I believe that QNX will migrate into all of RIM's smartphone and tablet products and become the dominant RIM operating system. It's important to note that QNX Neutrino and BlackBerry 6 are not mutually exclusive. BlackBerry applications can and will run on top of QNX.