BlackBerry maker Research In Motion unveiled its first tablet computer last Monday (Sept. 27) at a developers’ conference in San Francisco. “But in a return to its roots, the company said that the new device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, would be aimed mainly at business users,” wrote Ian Austen of the New York Times (Sept. 28).
It’s kind of ironic that RIM named it the PlayBook, given that they’re targeting business users with it, but I suppose the word “workbook” was already taken years ago and would be more associated with a laptop computer.
The PlayBook debut came only a few weeks after Samsung introduced its own Android-based tablet (see (see Galaxy Tab). Meanwhile, rival Apple started a global tablet frenzy back in June, when it launched its much-anticipated iPad device (see iPad Release). Austen suggests RIM’s first entry into the tablet market will not prevent analysts from saying the company is playing catch-up with Apple.
“But in a bid to distinguish the PlayBook from Apple’s iPad, Michael Lazaridis, RIM’s co-chief executive, said that the new tablet contained several features requested by corporate information technology departments,” Austen wrote.
“In an address to conference attendees, Mr. Lazaridis called the PlayBook ‘the world’s first professional tablet’ and repeatedly emphasized that it was fully compatible with the special servers that corporations and governments now used to control and monitor employees’ BlackBerry devices.”
Still, Austen added, questions remain about the device’s price and specific details about its functionality. “The company was also vague about its release date, indicating only that it would be available early next year.”
Engadget.com’s Joshua Topolsky provided the following breakdown on the day the PlayBook was first presented (Sept. 27):
- “The tablet will utilize an OS created by the recently acquired QNX called the BlackBerry Tablet OS, which will offer full OpenGL and POSIX support alongside web standards such as HTML.”
- “Lazaridis was joined on stage by (QNX) founder Dan Dodge, who said ‘QNX is going to enable things that you have never seen before,’ adding that the PlayBook would be ‘an incredible gaming platform for publishers and the players.”
- “RIM also touted the PlayBook’s ability to handle Flash content via Flash 10.1, as well as Adobe AIR apps.”
- “(The PlayBook) will sport a 7-inch, 1024 x 600, capacitive multitouch display, a Cortex A9-based, dual-core 1GHz CPU (the company calls it the ‘fastest tablet ever’), 1GB of RAM, and a 3-megapixel, front-facing camera along with a 5-megapixel rear lens (and yes, there will be video conferencing).”
- While there was no mention of onboard storage capacity, Engadget.com noticed that devices were labeled 16GB and 32GB on their back panels.
- “The PlayBook will be capable of 1080p HD video, and comes equipped with an HDMI port as well as a microUSB jack, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. The device clocks in at a svelte 5.1-by 7.6-inches, is only 0.4 inches thick and weighs just 400g (or about 0.9 lbs.).”
Sascha Segan, of PCMag.com, predicted (Sept. 28) that the PlayBook’s price point (as with the yet price-unknown Galaxy Tab) could determine its level of success:
- Over $1,000: “A retail price higher than the iPad’s – which costs $499-$899 – will look like poison to the market.”
- $350 or less: “(The PlayBook) uses Wi-Fi and tethers to a BlackBerry for 3G. (To get to this low price level) carriers could subsidize the device and require BlackBerrys that tether to PlayBooks to get a special add-on service plan, but that’s just grotesquely messy,” Segan wrote.
- $429-$600: “Pricing the PlayBook like a low-end iPad would be too optimistic without a wireless carrier subsidy. The parts are just too high-end; I don’t see how RIM could make its money back at this point.”
- $600-$850: “Yep, that’s my bet. The 32GB and 64GB, Wi-Fi iPads sell for $600 and $700, and the 3G iPads go up to $829. Trade out some of the iPad's Flash memory and the larger screen for the PlayBook's faster processor and two cameras, and I think you're starting to look at equivalent costs and prices. Aiming within the high end of the iPad range will also keep enterprise buyers happy.”