RIM Unveils PlayBook, Its BlackBerry-Themed iPad Competitor

Research In Motion is marketing the BlackBerry-themed Playbook, a 7-inch tablet PC, primarily to enterprise customers.

Research In Motion announced the BlackBerry-themed PlayBook, its 7-inch entrant into the tablet PC market, during a Sept. 27 presentation at its annual DevCon conference.

In keeping with BlackBerry's traditional focus on business users, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis reportedly termed the PlayBook the world's "first enterprise-ready tablet" and said it would "amplify" his company's smartphones.

The PlayBook's browser will reportedly support Adobe Flash and HTML5, multitasking, and high-definition video, and will be able to sync information with a BlackBerry. A pair of embedded cameras-3 megapixels in front, 5 megapixels in back-allow for video conferencing. A narration-free video from RIM highlights the PlayBook's supposed multitasking ability, along with its ability to run applications. The 7-inch multitouch capacitive screen displays images at 1024 by 600 resolution.

On the newly launched PlayBook Webpage, RIM claims the tablet's operating system takes advantage of "powerful, user-friendly QNX technology," confirming earlier rumors that the company's new BlackBerry 6 OS would not be adapted for the larger format. Other PlayBook operating system features include an on-screen virtual keyboard and out-of-the-box compatibility with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The 0.9-pound tablet will have 3G connectivity through the user's existing BlackBerry service plan.

Much about the tablet seems to confirm earlier rumors about the device. A Sept. 21 Wall Street Journal article, itself paraphrasing unnamed "people familiar with RIM's plans," indicated that the tablet would feature "a completely new platform built by QNX Software Systems" as its operating system, and include integrated cameras along with a 7-inch touch screen. However, that article's sources referred to the tablet as the BlackPad, a name that turned out to be incorrect.

As rumors floated throughout the Web, RIM remained tight-lipped about its tablet plans. When contacted by eWEEK about the possibility of a tablet-themed event the week of Sept. 27, a company spokesperson said, "The only RIM event next week is the Developer Conference that runs Monday through Thursday. There will be keynotes from one of the co-CEOs and other C-level execs, and RIM tends to drop news at these types of events."

Even with the tablet's existence unconfirmed, however, various third-party vendors wanted to appear to be on board with the device. In a widely circulated Sept. 21 e-mail, a spokesperson for virtualization company Citrix Systems claimed the company would support "the upcoming BlackBerry Black Pad."

The PlayBook faces substantial competition in the growing tablet PC market. Samsung and its carrier partners are preparing to release the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which runs Android 2.2 and has a 1GHz processor. Dell is already marketing its 5-inch Streak, which also runs Android, and has plans for a 7-inch tablet. And Hewlett-Packard is reportedly preparing tablets that run both its recently acquired Palm WebOS and Windows 7. All these companies, of course, are chasing after the success of Apple's iPad, which has achieved blockbuster sales since its April release.

So far, RIM has remained quiet about a potential price and release date for the PlayBook.