THE MANUFACTURERS of the popular BlackBerry smartphones, Research In Motion (RIM), have unveiled the PlayBook: a tablet device which it hopes will become a significant rival to the iPad going on sale early next year.
Unveiled at a conference in San Francisco yesterday, the Playbook features a 7-inch screen and cameras facing the front and rear, enabling video conferencing, and runs a new QNX operating system produced by a company recently acquired by RIM more commonly used in cars.
While the device – unlike some models of the iPad – does not have a 3G connection, instead being reliant on WiFi, it is designed to tether with a BlackBerry handset (either via USB cable or Bluetooth) to access the phone’s own internet connection.
RIM hopes that the tablet will become a hit with BlackBerry users, who outnumber iPhone owners by five to three in the US, so that the two may utlimately be seen as inseparable devices in the same way as some Apple users see the iPhone and iPad.
Analysts firm CCS Insight believes that the absence of any 3G connection by itself may mean that network operators will be slow to offer the device to their own customers, though the sales model also means the device could theoretically be sold through any electronics retailer or directly online from RIM.
Others from Morgan Stanley believe the unusual OS – and the fact that the tablet seems almost exclusively oriented to business users – will mean the device will fail to make an impact in the mass-consumer market.
It may make more of an impact in the general consumer market, though, because it handles Adobe’s Flash software which Apple continues to boycott.
Crucially, however, RIM gave no indication of the price of the tablet.