Sprint 4G Tablet Coming in 2011: Report

A Sprint executive says the wireless carrier will offer a 4G tablet in 2011, and that enterprise customers are hungry for it, according to Forbes. The BlackBerry PlayBook is one guess.

Sprint President of Business Markets Paget Alves said the carrier will release a 4G-enabled tablet in 2011, according to reporting from Forbes.

Currently, Sprint-like eventually Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular-offers the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The tablet, however, is only capable of running at 3G speeds, despite the fact that Sprint, a majority owner of WiMax company Clearwire, has offered 4G since 2008.

Alves declined to say which manufacturer Sprint will team with to release the tablet, but added that "70 to 80 percent of the chief information officers (CIOs) that Sprint speaks with are interested in deploying tablets to their workforces.

"The adoption rate for tablets in the business sector is much, much faster than we expected," Alves said, according to Forbes.

Sprint's desire to cater to the enterprise market makes Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook a good guess. RIM first introduced the tablet in September and has pointed to early 2011 for its release but offered no specific date or price. The tablet features a 7-inch display, WiFi connectivity (and 3G through a user's BlackBerry smartphone), 1GB of RAM and a 1GB dual-core processor. Notably, it will also run an operating system based on the QNX software RIM acquired in April, and not the overhauled BlackBerry 6 OS.

For images of the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, click here.

The PlayBook could prove a good move for Sprint. While analysts were initially uncertain about the amount of consumer interest the PlayBook might pique, an October survey from ChangeWave found that as many tablet-interested consumers were "most likely" planning to buy a PlayBook as were planning to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab, Hewlett-Packard Slate, Archos Tablet, Dell Streak and Sony Dash combined. (Since then, Samsung has sold more than 1 million Galaxy Tabs.)

Another possibility for Sprint is the HP tablet, slated to run a version of WebOS, the software HP acquired in its purchase of Palm this summer. Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and now the head of HP's Palm division, recently confirmed that HP will release the tablet in 2011. And of course, Rubinstein has a relationship with Sprint, having chosen the carrier to launch the Palm Pre-its big effort to rejuvenate Palm-in June 2009.

Alves reportedly also noted that, when it comes to selling tablets, Sprint is considering the appeal and feasibility of various types of bundles and price points. (Yankee Group recently predicted that tiered pricing will be king in 2011.)

Despite Sprint's head start into the 4G market, there are now plenty of competitors catching up. On Dec. 5, Verizon Wireless launched its LTE-based (Long-Term Evolution) 4G network, which it plans to extend to 38 metropolitan markets and 60 airports by year's end. And over the summer, even little MetroPCS launched a 4G LTE network in Las Vegas. The surprise entrant, however, was T-Mobile, which has begun marketing its speedy HSPA+ network as 4G and selling a 4G-enabled myTouch smartphone.

"Throwing around [the term 4G] will make it less meaningful," Alves said, according to Forbes. "Then it will be more about delivering what people expect from a '4G' experience." He added that even with Verizon, the nation's largest carrier, now in the game, he expects Sprint's business customers-its market for a 4G tablet-to remain loyal.

"We've been in this market for over two years," he told Forbes. "We've had a lot of time to work with our customers and build up a portfolio of 4G devices and services."