Blackberry has announced its answer to Apple’s iPad with a device called the Playbook.
The company unveiled its tablet computer to much anticipation at its developer conference, Devcon, in San Francisco.
It is one of the first business-centric devices in the tablet market.
Analysts said that the release was a clever move by the Blackberry maker Research In Motion whose smartphones dominate the business sector.
“This is one of the most exciting times in our history,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM chief executive officer.
“RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world’s most robust and flexible operating systems,” added Mr Lazaridis.
The tablet will be able to run Adobe’s Flash, which Apple’s iPad doesn’t, and offer micro-HDMI and micro-usb ports. It weighs just 400g and includes dual HD cameras for video calling. Pricing and release dates, for the UK and the rest of the world, have not yet been announced, but it will be available in the USA in the first quarter of 2011 and “international markets” in the second quarter.
Although 3G and 4G models are planned for the future, the device will initially connect to the web via wifi or via a user’s BlackBerry smartphone, and offer a reflection of its screen for expanded use.
Lazardis said it will offer “true multi-tasking” and “an amplified view of what’s already on your BlackBerry”. It’s expected that 16gb and 32gb models will be offered.
The new operating system will also offer open standards, which RIM says will be “a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers”. The developers’ kit will be available in the next few weeks.
The move represents the confirmation of rumours of a “BlackPad” that have run through the industry since Apple launched its iPad. It comes after Samsung announced a similar tablet, the Tab, although RIM has stuck with its own in-house operating system, whereas Samsung and a host of other manufacturers have adopted Google’s Android.
# PlayBook is smaller and lighter than iPad… and plays Flash
# Comes with USB connection and has front and rear cameras
# Experts expect it to cost about the same as Apple’s iPad
Tim Renowden, an analyst for Ovum, said: ‘The BlackBerry PlayBook certainly looks like a strong contender against Apple’s iPad, at least amongst RIM’s core enterprise customers.
‘RIM’s dominance of the enterprise smartphone market has begun to come under pressure from Apple and a range of Android competitors, and since the iPad’s launch there has been a lot of discussion about the role of tablet devices in enterprise and the adoption of consumer devices by business users.
‘The danger for RIM is that Apple already has a big head start in the tablet market, and the buzz around its apps and ‘cool factor’ is significant.
‘Many business users will want to bring their own iPads into the work environment, so this is going to be a long and hard fought battle for RIM, but an important one as mobile devices become an increasingly important part of doing business.’
BlackBerry PlayBook :
Display: 7-inch 1024 x 600 LCD
Operating System: BlackBerry tablet OS
Flash support: Yes
Apps: BlackBerry App World
Camera: 3 MP front, 5 MP back
Input/Output: microHDMI, microUSB
Processor: 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9
Wireless: Wi-Fi (3G later), Bluetooth
Battery life: TBC
At a nearby conference called TechCrunch Disrupt, Todd Bradley, the company’s executive vice president for the personal systems group said tablets are going to be a huge market.
Mr Bradley told attendees that he estimates that in the next few years tablets will be a $40bn market.
Samsung recently introduced its Galaxy tablet as did Dell with the 5 inch Streak. Other companies waiting in the wings with their versions include Lenovo, Asus, HTC, and Acer as well as Google and Microsoft.
A possible contender for the business customer is likely to come in the form of Cisco’s Cius tablet.